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Encyclopedia of BIBLE 

DIFFICULTIES 

Gleason L. Archer, Jr. 


This encyclopedia is intended for 
everyone, from scholars and students to 
laymen — for all who are troubled by ap- 
parent contradictions in the Bible. It ar- 
gues well for the unity and the integrity 
of the Bible and should therefore con- 
vince the skeptic and reassure the per- 
son who may be confused by the seem- 
ing discrepancies he discovers in 
Scripture. It is the author's purpose to 
uphold the inerrancy of the Bible and to 
uphold therefore also the authority of 
the Lord Jesus Christ, for He held the 
Old Testament Scripture to be infallible. 

The author is well qualified to write 
this book. He has had extensive training 
in ancient Semitic languages, has made 
on-site archaeological investigations, 
and has been an instructor in Old Tes- 
tament at the seminary level for some 
thirty years. In addition, having been a 
pastor for a number of years, he is keenly 
aware of how readily a person's faith 
may be assaulted by intellectual prob- 
lems concerning the Bible. 

Not fearing the line of greatest resist- 
ance, Dr. Archer faces the vexing ques- 
tions that have troubled believers for 
centuries. His answers are sometimes 
simple insights that seem afterward to 
have been obvious all along. But more 
often his answers are based on a careful 
study of the meanings of words, the 
cultural context of Bible eras, involved 
interrelationships among various peo- 
ples, a knowledge of the Hebrew num- 
bering system, and many other details 
not readily known by the average Bible 
reader. Some answers are given as 
plausible, not final, solutions to prob- 
lems, for still "we know in part," and a 
humble attitude is becoming to the stu- 
dent of Scripture. 






















Encyclopedia of BIBLE 

DIFFICULTIES 




Encyclopedia of BIBLE 

DIFFICULTIES 


Gleason L. Archer 


Foreword by 

KENNETH S. KANTZER 


ft 


Regency 

Reference Library 

Zondervan Publishing House 
Grand Rapids, Michigan 


Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties 
Copyright © 1982 by The Zondervan Corporation 
Grand Rapids, Michigan 

Regency Reference Library is an imprint of Zondervan 
Publishing House, 1415 Lake Drive, S.E., 

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Archer, Gleason Leonard, 191 6 — 

An encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. 

Bibliography: p. 

Includes index. 

1. Bible — Examinations, questions, etc. 

I. Title. 

BS612.A73 220.6 82-1964 

ISBN 0-310-43570-6 AACR2 

Edited by Richard P. Polcyn 
Designed by Martha Bentley 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a 
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, 
mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other — except for brief quotations in 
printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. 

Printed in the United States of America 


86 87 88 89 90 / 12 11 10 9 8 


Contents 


7 Foreword 
11 Preface 

13 Acknowledgments 

14 How to Use This 
Encyclopedia 

15 Recommended Procedures 
in Dealing With Bible 
Difficulties 

19 Introduction: The 
Importance of Biblical 
Inerrancy 

45 The Pentateuch 
55 Genesis 
109 Exodus 
126 Leviticus 
129 Numbers 
146 Deuteronomy 
155 Joshua 
163 Judges 
167 Ruth 
169 1 Samuel 
183 2 Samuel 
191 1 Kings 
204 2 Kings 
216 1 Chronicles 
225 2 Chronicles 
229 Ezra 

233 Nehemiah 

234 Esther 

235 Job 
242 Psalms 
250 Proverbs 


254 Ecclesiastes 

261 Song of Solomon 

263 Isaiah 

272 Jeremiah 

276 Ezekiel 

282 Daniel 

294 Hosea 

296 Joel 

297 Amos 

298 Obadiah 
300 Jonah 
303 Zechariah 
305 Malachi 

307 The New Testament and the 
Old Testament 
311 The Synoptic Gospels 
316 Matthew 
362 Mark 
365 Luke 
369 John 
377 Acts 
385 Romans 
396 1 Corinthians 

403 Galatians 

404 Ephesians 
406 Colossians 

410 2 Thessalonians 

411 1 Timothy 
416 2 Timothy 
418 Hebrews 
423 1 Peter 
425 2 Peter 


5 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


428 

1 John 

437 

Index of Persons 

430 

Jude 

450 

Index of Subjects 

431 

Revelation 

464 

Index of Scripture 

435 

Bibliography 


References 


6 


Foreword 


Dr. Gleason Archer has written this encyclopedia to show that there is nothing 
in the Bible inconsistent with the claim that it is the inerrant Word of God. In the 
last century this doctrine has increasingly come under sharp criticism. Unfor- 
tunately Christians who oppose the doctrine of biblical inerrancy usually mis- 
understand it. In most cases they gleaned their view of what it means from an 
uninstructed Sunday school teacher or an overenthusiastic radio preacher. Per- 
haps they have never had the occasion to consult the work of a serious-minded 
scholar. Readers will soon discover that the view of inerrancy set forth by Dr. 
Archer is the historical position of the church in all of its major branches. Behind 
it stand the illustrious names of Augustine, Aquinas, John of Damascus, Luther, 
Calvin, Wesley, and a host of others. Put quite simply, this view of inerrancy holds 
that the Bible tells us truth and never says what is not so. 

It might be helpful to begin by dispelling some of the most common misunder- 
standings of biblical inerrancy. Evangelicals do not try to prove that the Bible 
has no mistakes so that they can be sure the Bible is the Word of God. One might 
prove that a newspaper article is free from all mistakes, but that would not prove 
that the newspaper article is the Word of God. Christians hold the Bible to be the 
Word of God (and inerrant) because they are convinced that Jesus, the Lord of 
the church, believed it and taught His disciples to believe it. And ultimately their 
conviction of its truth rests on the witness of the Holy Spirit. 

Likewise evangelicals do not hold that inerrant inspiration eliminates the human 
element in the production of the Bible. True, evangelicals have stressed the divine 
authorship of Scripture because this is most frequently denied and it is this that 
gives Scripture its unique importance. But informed evangelicals have always 
insisted on a truly human authorship of Scripture. Even those who were willing 
to use the word dictation (as did Calvin and the Tridentine Council of the Roman 
Catholic church) always made very clear that they were not referring to the model 
of a boss dictating to a stenographer. Rather, they meant to stress the divine (as 
well as human) responsibility for the words of Scripture and that the inscripturated 
words are just as truly God’s authoritative words as though He had dictated them. 

One could argue (illogically) that God could prevent the biblical writers from 
error only by eliminating their freedom and their humanity, but evangelicals have 
not so argued. Rather, the Bible is both a thoroughly human and a thoroughly 
divine product. As a divine product it possesses absolute authority over the minds 
and hearts of believers. As a human product it displays within itself all of the 
essential marks of its human writing. No doubt God could have given us a Bible 
in the perfect language of heaven, but then who of us would have understood it? 
He chose to communicate his will to us through the imperfect medium of human 
language with all its possibilities for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. On 


7 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

the other hand the gift of language is one of our most trustworthy means of com- 
municating our wishes and our ideas to one another. God, therefore, chose to 
communicate to us through this imperfect instrument of human language. 

In writing the Bible, its authors used figures of speech, allegory, symbolic lan- 
guage, and the various genre of literature employed by other human authors. 
Moreover, because they wrote in the language of the common man of two or more 
millennia ago, they frequently chose not to provide specific technical data where 
that was not important to their purpose. Never do they speak in the vocabulary 
of modern science. They felt no more obligation to be precise and exact in many 
of their statements than we do in our ordinary conversation. Divine inspiration 
guaranteed only the truth of what they wrote. God preserved them from error 
both of ignorance and of deception. But He did not prevent them from speaking 
as humans. And only if we take the ridiculous and self-contradictory position 
that error is essential to all human speaking and writing, can we insist that the 
true humanity of Scripture necessarily carries with it false statements. While 
preserving their full humanity, with all that implies for the character of their 
writing, the Holy Spirit kept the writers of the Bible from making erroneous 
statements. As a result we do not need to pick and choose what is taught in Scrip- 
ture. All of it is God’s truth. 

The attempt, like Dr. Archer’s, to show that there are no mistakes or false state- 
ments in the Bible is frequently objected to from opposite viewpoints. One asks, 
“Why bother to defend the Bible? You do not defend a roaring lion from a mouse. 
Nor should we place ourselves in the false position of defending the Scripture. 
We need only to unleash it. It will conquer by its own power without our feeble 
endeavors to support it.” 

But the faith of some troubled souls is hindered by misunderstanding the Scrip- 
ture. They are confused by what seems to them to be false statements or self- 
contradiction. We need, therefore, to clear away such false obstacles to faith. If 
there remains any obstacle to faith, it should be the stumbling block of the cross 
or the cost of discipleship rather than an imaginary obstacle that could easily be 
eliminated. In spite of what we sometimes hear, God never asks us to crucify our 
intellects in order to believe. 

A second objection to dealing seriously with alleged discrepancies and mistakes 
in the Bible comes from the opposite position that it is not worthwhile to do so 
because it is perfectly obvious that the Bible is full of errors. There is no uniformity 
in the way in which this second type of judgment comes, but all forms of it stem 
basically from too little faith in the Bible. World-famous theologian, Karl Barth, 
for example, declares that the Bible shouts from the housetop that it is a human 
book and that an essential part of its humanity is to err. Others hold that the Bible 
is a book God inspired in order to give us religious truth but not precise facts of 
science and history. To waste time defending the Bible in these latter areas is to do 
it a disservice, they say. It diverts attention away from the real purpose of the 
Bible, which is rather to instruct us in spiritual and moral matters. A variant of 
this position is that the purpose of the Bible is to lead us to the personal truth of 
Christ. The Bible may be wrong on many points, but it points to the Savior; and to 
focus attention on points of geography, history, astronomy, and biology is only to 
divert it from its true goal — personal faith in Christ. 

Of course, there are also others who hold that the Bible is full of errors because 
its authors were simply children of their times. Miller Burrows, former professor 
of New Testament at Yale University, accurately summarizes this rather typical 


8 


FOREWORD 


modern viewpoint: “The Bible is full of things which to an intelligent educated 

person of today are either quite incredible or at best highly questionable The 

protracted struggle of theology to defend the inerrancy of the Bible (i.e. its com- 
plete truth) against the findings of astronomy, geology, and biology has been a 
series of retreats ending in a defeat which has led all wise theologians to move 
to a better position.” ( Outline of Biblical Theology [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1946], 
pp. 9, 44) 

Common to all of these objections is the conviction that any defense of biblical 
inerrancy is at best a waste of time and at worst positively harmful because it leads 
one away from the true purpose of the Bible, which is to bring us to God. 

The inerrantist’s response is quite simple. For him the basic issue is: Who is 
Jesus Christ? If the Bible is so far from the truth that it is all wrong as to who Jesus 
Christ is, then there can be no question about it: the Bible is full of erroneous 
statements. It is nonsense to discuss whether or not the Bible tells us only the truth 
in all it teaches if, in fact, it is really dead wrong on the main thrust of its teaching. 
In short, evangelical inerrantists have no quarrel with radicals who reject Jesus 
Christ as their religious guide. But for those who accept Jesus Christ as their divine 
Lord, the teaching of Jesus Christ must be taken with dreadful seriousness. It is 
consistent to deny Jesus Christ as Lord and also to reject the full authority of the 
Bible, but it is inconsistent to confess Him as Lord and then reject His teaching. 
On this matter, the evangelical seeks only to be consistent. Jesus is Lord, and the 
evangelical believes what He taught about the full truthfulness of the Old Testa- 
ment. By the Holy Spirit He also promised to give similar authority to His disciples 
for their guidance of the church after He had completed His own earthly ministry. 

The evangelical, moreover, does not feel the overwhelming force of the dis- 
crepancies and errors alleged by some to be profusely scattered throughout the 
Bible. He finds that most such problems dissolve the moment one sees clearly 
that the Bible is a human book written in the ordinary language of two thousand 
and more years ago. It is only when we try to make the Bible into a book written 
in the exact, precise style that we have become accustomed to in a modern labo- 
ratory report that we run into difficulty. 

For the same reason the evangelical considers it unreasonable for anyone to 
demand that he must be able to demonstrate the complete harmony of all Bible 
passages before he can reasonably accept them as true. The Bible was written 
millennia ago by independent authors drawn from various cultures and scattered 
over many centuries. In view of the nature of the Bible, it is much more reasonable 
that we should not be able to demonstrate on the basis of our limited knowledge 
a neat harmony of all biblical data. Quite to the contrary, the evangelical is amazed 
that there are as few apparently insoluble problems as there are. Inerrancy is not 
unbelievable nor does it require a sacrifice of the intellect. Rather, the actual situa- 
tion with respect to biblical problems is precisely what we should expect in view 
of the fact that the Bible is a book of inerrant truth coming to us from across many 
centuries and alien cultures. 

Finally, just a word needs to be said about Dr. Archer and his special qualifica- 
tions for this task. Few scholars are so uniquely equipped in their command of 
ancient languages and of the tools of biblical scholarship as is Dr. Archer. In addi- 
tion to his own integrity as a scholar, he is a dedicated student of Scripture and a 
trustworthy guide for those who wish to understand Scripture better. His book 
will be a rich gold mine for those who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and who 
need help in seeking to bring that conviction into harmony both with what they 


9 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

read in the Bible and the facts of the empirical world about them. I believe this 
book will prove immensely valuable to many earnest Christians and I heartily 
commend it to the church and to all serious Bible students. 


Kenneth S. Kantzer 


Preface 


The idea for this book first occurred to me in October 1978, in connection with 
the Summit Conference of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, held 
in Chicago. At that time it was apparent that a chief objection to inerrancy was that 
the extant copies of Scripture contain substantial errors, some of which defy even 
the most ingenious use of textual criticism. In my opinion this charge can be 
refuted and its falsity exposed by an objective study done in a consistent, evangeli- 
cal perspective. Nothing less than the full inerrancy of the original manuscripts of 
Scripture can serve as the basis for the infallibility of the Holy Bible as the true 
Word of God. 

The earnest debate current within Evangelicalism (as well as that within neoor- 
thodoxy and liberalism) has impressed on me the urgent need for this book. Un- 
doubtedly, a panel of scholars would have produced a superior piece of work; but 
in consideration of the time element, it seemed best to handle this as a one-man 
work. 

For several years I have been engaged in apologetics for Decision magazine, 
produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis. Many of 
the articles that appear in this encyclopedia were previously prepared for Decision, 
and all such are identified with (D*). The longer discussions, however, have been 
especially prepared for this book. 

The problems and questions dealt with in this volume have been directed to me 
during the past thirty years of teaching on the graduate seminary level in the field 
of biblical criticism. As an undergraduate at Harvard, I was fascinated by apolo- 
getics and biblical evidences; so I labored to obtain a knowledge of the languages 
and cultures that have any bearing on biblical scholarship. As a classics major in 
college, I received training in Latin and Greek, also in French and German. At 
seminary I majored in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic; and in post-graduate years I 
became involved in Syriac and Akkadian, to the extent of teaching elective courses 
in each of these subjects. Earlier, during my final two years of high school, I had 
acquired a special interest in Middle Kingdom Egyptian studies, which was fur- 
thered as I later taught courses in this field. At the Oriental Institute in Chicago, I 
did specialized study in Eighteenth Dynasty historical records and also studied 
Coptic and Sumerian. Combined with this work in ancient languages was a full 
course of training at law school, after which I was admitted to the Massachusetts 
Bar in 1939. This gave me a thorough grounding in the field of legal evidences. 
Additionally, I spent three months in Beirut, Lebanon, in specialized study of 
modern literary Arabic. This was followed by a month in the Holy Land, where I 
visited most of the important archaeological sites. 

This extensive training, combined with the classroom challenge of thousands of 
seminarians I have been privileged to teach, has especially prepared me for an 
undertaking of this sort. I candidly believe I have been confronted with just about 
all the biblical difficulties under discussion in theological circles today — especially 


11 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

those pertaining to the interpretation and defense of Scripture. It may be that 
some readers of this book will be disappointed to find that some of their personal 
difficulties have not been covered. If so, please send your problem in written form 
to the publisher. If there is sufficient response, a supplemental volume may be 
produced. 

I have attempted to present the material in the average layman’s language — 
that is, all but the technical terminology. Yet at the same time I have occasionally 
transliterated the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, or related languages for the benefit of 
those acquainted with them. Less frequently the actual characters are used for the 
benefit of those who are technically trained. 

As I have dealt with one apparent discrepancy after another and have studied 
the alleged contradictions between the biblical record and the evidence of linguis- 
tics, archaeology, or science, my confidence in the trustworthiness of Scripture has 
been repeatedly verified and strengthened by the discovery that almost every 
problem in Scripture that has ever been discovered by man, from ancient times 
until now, has been dealt with in a completely satisfactory manner by the biblical 
text itself— or else by objective archaeological information. The deductions that 
may be validly drawn from ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, or Akkadian documents 
all harmonize with the biblical record; and no properly trained evangelical scholar 
has anything to fear from the hostile arguments and challenges of humanistic 
rationalists or detractors of any and every persuasion. There is a good and suffi- 
cient answer in Scripture itself to refute every charge that has ever been leveled 
against it. But this is only to be expected from the kind of book the Bible asserts 
itself to be, the inscripturation of the infallible, inerrant Word of the Living God. 

In regard to the Bible versions used in the discussion of biblical texts, I have 
often translated directly from the Hebrew or Greek, especially where some tech- 
nical point of wording was involved. When I have used recent English versions, 
the New American Standard Bible (nasb) has been most frequently cited, followed 
by the New International Version (niv). Less frequently I have used the King 
James Version (kjv) or the American Standard Version (asv). Occasionally the 
frame of God, Yahweh, has been substituted for Lord in quoting a verse from a 
particular version. (Only the Jerusalem Bible |jb] among the more recent versions 
uses the original name Yahweh.) I feel that it would be far better to use this name 
wherever the Hebrew original does. 


12 


Acknowledgments 


I would like to express my appreciation to my colleagues and friends of the 
International Council on Biblical Inerrancy and to its board of directors, under 
the leadership of James Montgomery Boice and Jay Grimstead, who have warmly 
encouraged me to pursue this project and have afforded me all possible assistance 
in carrying it through. I am grateful to the president and the board of Trinity 
Evangelical Divinity School for granting me a sabbatical term and a reduced load 
during this last academic year so that I might bring this book to completion. My 
warmest gratitude goes also to Zondervan Publishing House for its generous help 
in enabling me to pursue my work on an accelerated schedule and for covering all 
extra expenses arising from it. 

A special tribute is due my former colleague and faithful friend Harold 
Lindsell, who through his recent writings has exercised such a decisive influence 
in bringing this vital issue of Biblical inerrancy to the attention of our evangelical 
constituency throughout the English-speaking world. Nor should I fail to mention 
the debt I owe to my former pastor Harold John Ockenga of Park Street Church, 
Boston, whose powerful defense of the complete trustworthiness and divine au- 
thority of Holy Scripture exerted such a decisive influence on my convictions as a 
college student and sent me into the ministry of the gospel rather than into the legal 
career I had chosen for myself. 

I think also of my gifted and faithful former colleagues Wilbur Smith and Carl 
F.H. Henry, my esteemed theology professor John Kuizenga of Princeton, and 
Oswald T. Allis of Westminster. Each has had a real influence on my understand- 
ing of the trustworthiness of Scripture. The same is true of Francis A. Schaeffer, 
whose deeply perceptive mind sends forth such a timely prophetic call to our 
confused generation on both sides of the Atlantic. Nor should I forget gifted 
scholars of a former generation, like William Henry Green and Robert Dick 
Wilson of Princeton and J. Gresham Machen of Westminster, whose writings 
contributed so much to my understanding of God’s Word and my confidence in 
its infallible authority. 

Above and beyond all the enrichment and strength I have ever received from 
these faithful servants of Christ, I wish to offer my thanks and praise to my 
incomparable Redeemer and King, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by His blessed 
Spirit reached down to me in my darkness and sin, drew me to Himself in redeem- 
ing love and sanctifying grace, and made me a child of the King. “To me, who am 
less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the 
Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). 


13 


How to Use This Encyclopedia 


The Bible passages dealt with in this volume are given in the order of their 
appearance in the Bible. This makes it easy for the readers to find the verse or 
verses that present a problem to them. If a certain passage is not treated in the 
place expected, it is possible that it is discussed under some other reference. The 
index of Scripture references will be helpful for finding such verses. In addition, 
the index of subjects and persons will help the readers locate specific topics, even 
if the exact Scripture references are unknown to them. Most of the Synoptic 
problems are found under Matthew, but those that appear in the other two 
Synoptics are easily located in the Scripture index, as well as under the subject 
listing. 

A bibliography has been prepared for those who wish to make more complete 
studies of certain texts or topics. 


14 


Recommended Procedures 
in Dealing With Bible Difficulties 


In dealing with Bible problems of any kind, whether in factual or in doctrinal 
matters, it is well to follow appropriate guidelines in determining the solution. This 
is most easily done by those who have carefully and prayerfully studied the Bible 
over a number of years and have consistently and faithfully memorized Scripture. 
Some guidelines are as follows: 

1. Be fully persuaded in your own mind that an adequate explanation exists, even 
though you have not yet found it. The aerodynamic engineer may not under- 
stand how a bumble bee can fly; yet he trusts that there must be an adequate 
explanation for its fine performance since, as a matter of fact, it does fly! Even 
so we may have complete confidence that the divine Author preserved the 
human author of each book of the Bible from error or mistake as he wrote 
down the original manuscript of the sacred text. 

2. Avoid the fallacy of shifting from one a priori to its opposite every time an 
apparent problem arises. The Bible is either the inerrant Word of God or else 
it is an imperfect record by fallible men. Once we have come into agreement 
with Jesus that the Scripture is completely trustworthy and authoritative, then 
it is out of the question for us to shift over to the opposite assumption, that the 
Bible is only the errant record of fallible men as they wrote about God. If the 
Bible is truly the Word of God, as Jesus said, then it must be treated with 
respect, trust, and complete obedience. Unlike all other books known to man, 
the Scriptures come to us from God; and in them we confront the ever-living, 
ever-present God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When we are unable to understand God’s 
ways or are unable to comprehend His words, we must bow before Him in 
humility and patiently wait for Him to clear up the difficulty or to deliver us 
from our trials as He sees fit. There is very little that God will long withhold 
from the surrendered heart and mind of a true believer. 

3. Carefully study the context and framework of the verse in which the problem 
arises until you gain some idea of what the verse is intended to mean within its 
own setting. It may be necessary to study the entire book in which the verse 
occurs, carefully noting how each key term is used in other passages. Compare 
Scripture with Scripture, especially all those passages in other parts of the Bible 
that deal with the same subject or doctrine. 

4. Remember, no interpretation of Scripture is valid that is not based on careful 
exegesis, that is, on wholehearted commitment to determining what the an- 
cient author meant by the words he used. This is accomplished by a painstak- 
ing study of the key words, as defined in the dictionaries (Hebrew and Greek) 
and as used in parallel passages. Research also the specific meaning of these 
words in idiomatic phrases as observed in other parts of the Bible. 


15 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

Consider how confused a foreigner must be when he reads in a daily Ameri- 
can newspaper: “The prospectors made a strike yesterday up in the 
mountains.” “The union went on strike this morning.” “The batter made his 
third strike and was called out by the umpire.” “ Strike up with the Star Spangled 
Banner.” “The fisherman got a good strike in the middle of the lake.” Presum- 
ably each of these completely different uses of the same word go back to the 
same parent and have the same etymology. But complete confusion may result 
from misunderstanding how the speaker meant the word to be used. Bear in 
mind that inerrancy involves acceptance of and belief in whatever the biblical 
author meant by the words he used. If he meant what he said in a literal way, it 
is wrong to take it figuratively; but if he meant what he said in a figurative way, 
it is wrong to take it literally. So we must engage in careful exegesis in order to 
find out what he meant in the light of contemporary conditions and usage. 
That takes hard work. Intuition or snap judgment may catch one up in a web 
of fallacy and subjective bias. This often results in heresy that hinders the cause 
of the Lord one professes to serve. 

5. In the case of parallel passages, the only method that can be justified is har- 
monization. That is to say, all the testimonies of the various witnesses are to be 
taken as trustworthy reports of what was said and done in their presence, even 
though they may have viewed the transaction from a slightly different perspec- 
tive. When we sort them out, line them up, and put them together, we gain a 
fuller understanding of the event than we would obtain from any one tes- 
timony taken individually. But as with any properly conducted inquiry in a 
court of law, the judge and jury are expected to receive each witness’s tes- 
timony as true when viewed from his own perspective — unless, of course, he is 
exposed as an untrustworthy liar. Only injustice would be served by any other 
assumption — as, for example, that each witness is assumed to be untruthful 
unless his testimony is corroborated from outside sources. (This, of course, is 
the assumption made by opponents of the inerrancy of Scripture, and it leads 
them to totally false results.) 

6. Consult the best commentaries available, especially those written by Evangeli- 
cal scholars who believe in the integrity of Scripture. A good 90 percent of the 
problems will be dealt with in good commentaries (see Bibliography). Good 
Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias may clear up many perplexities. An ana- 
lytical concordance will help establish word usage (e.g., Strong’s, Young’s). 

7. Many Bible difficulties result from a minor error on the part of a copyist in the 
transmission of the text. In the Old Testament such transmissional errors may 
have resulted from a poor reading of the vowels; Hebrew was originally written 
in consonants only, and the vowel signs were not added until a thousand years 
after the completion of the Old Testament canon. But there are also some 
consonants that are easily confused because they look so much alike (e.g., 7 [d, 
daleth] and “I [r, resh] or 1 [y, yod] and 1 [w, waw]). Besides that, some words 
are preserved in a very old spelling susceptible of misunderstanding by later 
Hebrew copyists. In other words, only a resort to textual criticism and its 
analysis of the most frequent types of confusion and mistake can clear up the 
difficulty (for bibliography on this, cf. Introduction). This takes in confusion of 
numerals also, where statistical errors are found in our present text of Scrip- 
ture (e.g., 2 Kings 18:13). 

8. Whenever historical accounts of the Bible are called in question on the basis of 
alleged disagreement with the findings of archaeology or the testimony of 
ancient non-Hebrew documents, always remember that the Bible is itself an 


16 


RECOMMENDED PROCEDURES 


archaeological document of the highest caliber. It is simply crass bias for critics 
to hold that whenever a pagan record disagrees with the biblical account, it 
must be the Hebrew author that was in error. Pagan kings practiced self- 
laudatory propaganda, just as their modern counterparts do; and it is incredi- 
bly naive to suppose that simply because a statement was written in Assyrian 
cuneiform or Egyptian hieroglyphics it was more trustworthy and factual than 
the Word of God composed in Hebrew. No other ancient document in the b.c. 
period affords so many dear proofs of accuracy and integrity as does the Old 
Testament; so it is a violation of the rules of evidence to assume that the Bible 
statement is wrong every time it disagrees with a secular inscription or manu- 
script of some sort. Of all the documents known to man, only the Hebrew- 
Greek Scriptures have certified their accuracy and divine authority by a pat- 
tern of prediction and fulfillment completely beyond the capabilities of man 
and possible only for God. 


17 



Introduction: The Importance 
of Biblical Inerrancy 


Throughout the history of the Christian church, it has been clearly understood 
that the Bible as originally given by God was free from error. Except for heretical 
groups that broke away from the church, it was always assumed that Scripture was 
completely authoritative and trustworthy in all that it asserts as factual, whether in 
matters of theology, history, or science. In the days of the Protestant Reformation, 
Luther affirmed, “When the Scripture speaks, God speaks.” Even his Roman 
Catholic opponents held to that conviction, though they tended to put church 
tradition on almost the same level of authority as the Bible. From the days of the 
earliest Gnostics, whom Paul had to contend with, until the rise of deism in the 
eighteenth century, no doubts were expressed concerning the inerrancy of 
Scripture. Even Unitarians like Socinus and Michael Servetus argued their position 
on the basis of the infallibility of Scripture. 

The rise of rationalism and the deistic movement in the eighteenth century led 
to a drastic modification of the inerrant status of the Bible. The lines were soon 
drawn quite clearly between the deists and the orthodox defenders of the historic 
Christian faith. An increasing aversion toward the supernatural dominated the 
intellectual leadership of the Protestant world during the nineteenth century, and 
this spirit gave rise to “historical criticism” both in Europe and America. The Bible 
was assumed to be a collection of religious sentiments composed by human au- 
thors completely apart from inspiration by God. If there was any such power as a 
Supreme Being, He was either an impersonal Force that pervaded the created 
universe (the pantheistic view), or else He was so far removed from man as to be 
Wholly Other and, as such, almost completely unknowable (the Kierkegaardian 
alternative). At best, Scripture could only offer some sort of unverifiable tes- 
timony that pointed toward the living Word of God, a reality that could never be 
adequately captured or formulated as propositional truth. 

In the first half of the present century, the lines were clearly drawn between 
orthodox Evangelicals and the opponents of scriptural inerrancy. The Crisis 
theologians (whose views on revelation trace back to Kierkegaard) and the liberals 
or modernists (who subordinated the authority of Scripture to the authority of 
human reason and modern science) forthrightly rejected the doctrine of iner- 
rancy. Whether or not they avowed themselves to be “Fundamentalists,” all those 
who laid claim to being Evangelicals stood shoulder to shoulder in their insistence 
that the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, were free from error of any 
kind. 

During the second half of this century, however, a new school of revisionists has 
risen to prominence, and this school poses a vigorous challenge to biblical iner- 
rancy and yet lays claim to being truly and fully evangelical. The increasing 
popularity of this approach has resulted in the detachment of a large number of 


19 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

formerly evangelical seminaries from the historic position on Scripture, even here 
in America. As Harold Lindsell has documented this trend in his Battle for the Bible 
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), virtually all the theological training centers 
that have embraced (or even tolerated as allowable) this modified concept of 
biblical authority exhibit a characteristic pattern of doctrinal erosion. They re- 
semble ships that have slipped their moorings and are slowly drifting out to sea. 

There is always a transitional period, however, during which these defecting 
schools maintain — especially to their rank-and-file constituency from whom they 
derive their financial support — that they are still completely evangelical in their 
theology, that they still adhere to the cardinal doctrines of the historic Christian 
church. They have simply shifted to firmer ground in their defense of the truth of 
Scripture. As one of their advocates has put it: “I believe that the Bible is without 
error, but I refuse to let someone else define what that means, in such a way that I 
have to go to ridiculous extremes to defend my faith.” 1 Proponents of this ap- 
proach invariably argue that they alone are the honest and credible defenders of 
scriptural authority because the “phenomena of Scripture” include demonstrable 
errors (in matters of history and science, at least), and therefore full inerrancy 
cannot be sustained with any kind of intellectual integrity. The evidential data 
simply will not permit a successful defense of the historic Christian position on 
Scripture. Even as originally composed in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, we may 
be certain that the autographa themselves contained factual errors (except, 
perhaps, in matters of doctrine). 

In answer to this claim, it is incumbent on consistent Evangelicals to show two 
things: (1) the infallible authority of Scripture is rendered logically untenable if 
the original manuscripts contained any such errors and (2) no specific charge of 
falsehood or mistake can be successfully maintained in the light of all the relevant 
data. For this reason the appeal to the phenomena of Scripture leads not to a 
demonstration of its fallibility but to added confirmation of its divine inspiration 
and supernatural origin. In other words, we must first show that the alternative of 
infallibility without inerrancy is not a viable option at all, for it cannot be main- 
tained without logical self-contradiction. And, second, we must show that every 
asserted proof of mistake in the original manuscripts of Scripture is without 
foundation when examined in the light of the established rules of evidence. 

Without Inerrancy the Scriptures Cannot Be Infallible 

To all professing Christians, the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is final and 
supreme. If in any of His views or teachings as set forth in the New Testament He 
was guilty of error or mistake, He cannot be our divine Savior; and all Christianity 
is a delusion and a hoax. It therefore follows that any view of Scripture that is 
contrary to Christ’s must be unqualifiedly rejected. If the New Testament means 
anything at all, it testifies to the deity of our Lord and Savior — all the way from 
Matthew to Revelation. All who claim to be Evangelicals are completely agreed on 
this point. If this is so, then it follows that whatever Jesus Christ believed about the 
trustworthiness of Scripture must be accepted as true and binding on the con- 
science of every true believer. If Christ believed in the complete accuracy of the 
Hebrew Bible in all matters of scientific or historical fact, we must acknowledge 
His view in these matters to be correct and trustworthy in every respect. More- 
over, in view of the impossibility of God’s being guilty of error, we must recognize 


'William S. LaSor in “Theology News and Notes,” p. 26 of the 1976 Special Issue entitled "Life under 
Tension — Fuller Theological Seminary and ‘The Battle for the Bible.'” 


20 


INTRODUCTION 


that even matters of history and science, though not per se theological, assume the 
importance of basic doctrine. Why is this so? Because Christ is God, and God 
cannot be mistaken. That is a theological proposition that is absolutely essential to 
Christian doctrine. 

A careful examination of Christ’s references to the Old Testament makes it 
unmistakably evident that He fully accepted as factual even the most controversial 
statements in the Hebrew Bible pertaining to history and science. Here are a few 
examples. 

1. In speaking of His approaching death and resurrection, Jesus affirmed in 
Matthew 12:40: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a 
huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of 
the earth” (niv). Apart from a theory-protecting bias, it is impossible to draw 
from this statement any other conclusion than that Jesus regarded the experi- 
ence of Jonah as a type (or at the very least, a clear analogy) pointing to His 
own approaching experience between the hour of His death on the cross and 
His bodily resurrection from the tomb on Easter morning. If the Resurrection 
was to be historically factual, and if it was to be antitypical of Jonah’s three-day 
sojourn in the stomach of the huge fish, then it follows that the type itself must 
have been historically factual — regardless of modern skepticism on this point. 
The facticity of the Jonah narrative is further confirmed by Matthew 12:41: 
“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and 
condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater 
than Jonah is here” (niv) — namely, Jesus Himself. Jesus implies that the inhab- 
itants of Nineveh actually did respond to Jonah’s stern warning and denuncia- 
tion with self-abasing humility and fear — precisely as recorded in Jonah 3. 
Jesus declares that those raw, untaught pagans were less guilty before God 
than the Ghrist-rejecting Jews of His own generation. Such a judgment clearly 
presupposes that the Ninevites did precisely what Jonah says they did. This 
means that Jesus did not take that book to be a mere piece of fiction or 
allegory, as some would-be Evangelicals have suggested. Adherence to such a 
view is tantamount to a rejection of Christ’s inerrancy and therefore of His deity. 

2. Another account in Scripture that is often considered scientifically and histori- 
cally untenable is that of Noah’s ark and the great Flood found in Genesis 6-8. 
But Jesus in His Olivet Discourse clearly affirmed that "as in those days that 
were before the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in 
marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know it 
until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming [ parumia ] of 
the Son of Man be.” Here again Jesus is predicting that a future historical event 
will take place as an antitype to an event recorded in the Old Testament. He 
must therefore have regarded the Flood as literal history, just as it was re- 
corded in Genesis. 

3. The Exodus account of the feeding of the two-million-plus Israelites by the 
miracle of manna for forty years in the Sinai desert is rejected by some self- 
styled Evangelicals as legendary. But Jesus Himself accepted it as completely 
historical when He said, “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet 
they died” (John 6:49). Then in the following verse He presented Himself to 
the multitude as the antitype, as the true and living Bread sent down from the 
Father in heaven. 

4. It is safe to say that in no recorded utterance of Jesus Himself, or any of His 
inspired apostles, is there the slightest suggestion that inaccuracy in matters of 


21 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

history or science ever occurs in the Old Testament. To the scientific or ration- 
alistic skepticism of the Sadducees, Jesus cited the precise wording of Exodus 
3:6, where Moses is addressed by God from the burning bush (the bush that 
burned miraculously without being consumed) in the following terms: “I am 
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matt. 22:32). 
From the present tense implied by the Hebrew verbless clause, our Lord drew 
the deduction that God would not have described Himself as the God of mere 
lifeless corpses moldering in the grave but only of living, enduring personalities 
enjoying fellowship with Him in glory. Therefore the Old Testament taught the 
resurrection of the dead. 

5. So far as the historicity of Adam and Eve is concerned, Christ implied the va- 
lidity of the account in Genesis 2:24, where it is said of Adam and Eve: “For this 
reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the 
two will become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). In the preceding verse He referred to 
Genesis 1:27, which states that God specially created mankind as male and 
female — at the beginning of human history. Regardless of modern scientific 
theory, the Lord Jesus believed that Adam and Eve were literal, historical per- 
sonalities. Similar confirmation is found in the Epistles of Paul (who testified 
that he received his doctrine directly from the risen Christ [Gal. 1:12]), espe- 
cially in 1 Timothy 2:13-14: “For Adam was formed [eplasthe, “molded,” “fash- 
ioned”] first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman 
who was deceived and became a sinner” (niv). The point at issue in this passage 
is the historical background for the man’s leadership responsibility in the home 
and in the church; the historicity of Genesis 3 is presupposed. In this connection 
it should be noted that in Romans 5:12-21 the contrast is drawn between the 
disobedience of Adam, who plunged the human race into a state of sin, and the 
obedience of Christ, who by His atoning death brought redemption to all who 
believe. In v. 14 Adam is stated to be a typos (“type”) of Him (Christ) who was to 
come. If therefore Christ was a historical personage, being the antitype of 
Adam, it inevitably follows that Adam himself was a historical personage as well. 
No one can lay honest claim to loyal adherence to the doctrinal infallibility of 
Scripture and leave open the possibility of a mythical or legendary Adam, as 
the single ancestor of the human race. This highly doctrinal passage in Romans 
5 (which serves as the basis for the doctrine of original sin) presupposes that 
Genesis 2-3 contains literal, factual history. 

Without Inerrancy the Bible Cannot Be Infallible 

In recent years there has been a strenuous effort made by the revisionist move- 
ment within American Evangelicalism to defend the legitimacy of maintaining a 
kind of infallible authority or trustworthiness of Scripture that allows for the 
appearance of factual errors in matters of history and science — even in the origi- 
nal manuscripts of Scripture. It is urged that the Bible was never intended to be a 
textbook of science or history, only of theology and doctrine. There may have 
been occasional mistakes in the area of astronomy or biology, and misunderstand- 
ings reflecting the backward views of a prescientific age may be reflected in the 
Hebrew text; but surely these mistakes cannot be regarded as endangering or 
compromising the validity of the theological teachings that constitute the main 
thrust of those ancient books. And if perchance now and then there may be 
contradictions between one statement of historical fact and another in some other 
passage, these errors may be freely and frankly admitted without damage to the 
status of the Bible as an infallible textbook in matters of metaphysics and theology. 


22 


INTRODUCTION 


A flexible defense such as this makes it much easier to maintain an evangelical 
commitment to biblical authority without appearing ridiculous to professional 
historians and scientists who question the truth status of the Scriptures on the 
ground of its many factual errors. 

In response to this eloquent and plausible argument for infallibility without 
inerrancy, we must point out several serious weaknesses and fallacies that render 
it a basically untenable position to maintain. Its many self-contradictions render it 
hopeless as a viable option for the responsible Christian who has come to terms 
with the truth claims of Jesus Christ. Such a serious charge against a position held 
by so many outstanding leaders in the modern evangelical world must be sup- 
ported by very strong and compelling arguments, and so we shall set forth these 
arguments for the consideration of every open-minded reader of this book. 

To evade the charge that proven factual errors in Scripture are an evidence of 
its false status as a revelation from God is a maneuver that cannot succeed. Skep- 
tics and detractors of the Bible have always resorted to this type of attack in order 
to prove their point, that the sixty-six books are basically human documents, 
devoid of any special inspiration from God. Despite the neoorthodox contention 
that the error-filled Hebrew and Greek documents of Scripture somehow point 
the questing soul of a true believer to some kind of suprahistorical, suprascientific 
level of metaphysical truth, intellectual and moral integrity demands that we face 
up to the validity of the attacks of these skeptics. This via media offered by the revi- 
sionist Evangelicals and neoorthodox theologians cannot be successfully maintained. 
There can be no infallibility without inerrancy — even in matters of history and 
science — and sooner or later the schools or denominations that accept this via 
media slip away from their original evangelical posture and shift into substantial 
departures from the historic Christian faith. There are some good and solid 
reasons for this doctrinal decline. 

In any court of law, whether in a civil or criminal case, the trustworthiness of a 
witness on a stand is necessarily an important point at issue if his testimony is to be 
received. Therefore, the attorney for the opposing side will make every effort in 
his cross-examination of the witness to demonstrate that he is not a consistently 
truthful person. If the attorney can trap the opposing witness into statements that 
contradict what he has said previously or furnish evidence that in his own com- 
munity the man has a reputation for untruthfulness, then the jury may be led to 
doubt the accuracy of the witness’s testimony that bears directly on the case itself. 
This is true even though such untruthfulness relates to other matters having no 
relationship to the present litigation. While the witness on the stand may indeed 
be giving a true report on this particular case, the judge and jury have no way of 
being sure. Therefore, they are logically compelled to discount this man’s 
testimony. 

The same is true of Holy Scripture. If the statements it contains concerning 
matters of history and science can be proven by extrabiblical records, by ancient 
documents recovered through archaeological digs, or by the established facts of 
modern science to be contrary to the truth, then there is grave doubt as to its 
trustworthiness in matters of religion. In other words, if the biblical record can be 
proved fallible in areas of fact that can be verified, then it is hardly to be trusted in 
areas where it cannot be tested. As a witness for God, the Bible would be discred- 
ited as untrustworthy. What solid truth it may contain would be left as a matter of 
mere conjecture, subject to the intuition or canons of likelihood of each individual. 
An attitude of sentimental attachment to traditional religion may incline one person 


23 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

to accept nearly all the substantive teachings of Scripture as probably true. But 
someone else with equal justification may pick and choose whatever teachings in 
the Bible happen to appeal to him and lay equal claim to legitimacy. One opinion 
is as good as another. All things are possible, but nothing is certain if indeed the 
Bible contains mistakes or errors of any kind. 

Those who allow for inaccuracies or self-contradictions in the original manu- 
scripts of the Bible usually take refuge in the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, 
which they receive through some sort of existential encounter with God, an en- 
counter that takes place in the context of Bible study — fallible though that Bible 
may be! They trust that the Holy Spirit leads them so that they can get at the 
Living Word of God and enjoy all the solid benefits of redemption and fellowship 
with God that old-fashioned Evangelicals suppose these freethinkers have lost 
through their discarding biblical inerrancy. But these revisionists have nevertheless 
— perhaps unwittingly — set in motion a dialectical process of degeneration and spiri- 
tual decline that impels them in the direction of increasing skepticism or eclecticism. 
They tend to exploit their self-given freedom of choice in such a way as to con- 
form to the prevailing opinions of the circles in which they move. Their con- 
sciences are no longer bound, as Luther put it, by the authority of the written 
Word of God. 

The second basic difficulty with the revisionist position (i.e., infallibility without 
inerrancy) is that it sets up a basis of distinction that is totally rejected by the 
authors of Scripture and by Christ Himself. No support whatever can be found 
for the distinction between historical, scientific truth and doctrinal, metaphysical 
truth — according to which “minor, inconsequential error” may be allowed for the 
former but be excluded from the latter. 

As we examine the Old Testament, we look in vain for any distinction between 
abstract theological doctrine and the miraculous events that marked the history of 
redemption. In Psalm 105, for example, composed at least five centuries after the 
Exodus, we are met with a joyous symphony of praise to Yahweh for the ten 
plagues He inflicted on Egypt to compel the release of Israel by Pharaoh. These 
miraculous events, impinging on matters of history and science, are clearly treated 
as factual, as real episodes in Israel’s past. In the following poem, Psalm 106, the 
name of the Lord is exalted for His mighty deliverance in parting the waters of 
the Red Sea to allow the safe passage of the two-million-plus congregation of the 
Hebrews and in bringing the water back again just in time to drown their 
chariot-driving pursuers. God is here being thanked, not for some inspiring 
legend or myth, but for a solidly historical event — in every case an episode involv- 
ing miracle, a striking departure from the usual laws of nature. The same psalm 
goes on to recall the sudden destruction of Dathan and Abiram as they tried to set 
aside Moses and his authoritative revelation from God. The very ground on which 
they stood opened up into great cracks as part of a seismic disturbance, and their 
families alone were swallowed up by the ground. Isaiah 28:21 refers to Joshua’s 
historic victory over the Canaanite attackers of his Gibeonite allies, making it a 
base of comparison with a future military intervention of judgments against apos- 
tate Judah. “For Yahweh will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be stirred up as 
in the valley of Gibeon, to do His task, His unusual task, and to work His work, His 
unusual work.” (It was at that Battle of Gibeon that more of the enemy were killed 
by hailstones from the sky than by the weapons of the Israelites.) 

Thus we see that the later Old Testament authors were as sure of the Red Sea 
crossing and the other miracles as the apostles were sure of Christ’s atoning death 
on Calvary. The apostles were also sure of the divine inspiration of the Davidic 


24 


INTRODUCTION 


Psalms. “Sovereign Lord,” they prayed in Acts 4:24-26, “You spoke through the 
mouth of our father David, Your servant.” Then they quoted Psalm 2:1-2. Peter 
affirmed that David composed Psalm 16:10: “Being therefore a prophet, and 
knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his 
descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of Christ, 
that He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption” (Acts 
2:30-31). 

This full trustworthiness and authority of the Hebrew Scriptures was constantly 
recognized by the New Testament authors as they quoted the prophetic passages 
that point to Christ. Matthew particularly emphasized this authoritative status, 
saying, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet” (see, 
e.g., Matt. 1:22; 2:5,15,23; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9). As L. Gaussen says, “Nowhere 
shall we find a single passage that permits us to detach one single part of it [i.e., 
the Old Testament] as less divine than all the rest” ( Theopneustia : the Bible, its Divine 
Origin and Inspiration, trans. by D.D. Scott [Cincinnati: Blanchard, 1859], p. 67). 
Thus we see that the crucial distinction between the historical-scientific and the 
doctrinal-theological passages of the Old Testament is completely unknown either 
to the later Old Testament authors or to the apostolic writers of the New Testa- 
ment in their treatment of the Hebrew Scriptures. 

Most decisive against this division into historical-scientific and doctrinal- 
theological categories is the clear endorsement by our Lord Jesus Himself of even 
those passages in the Old Testament that speak of supernatural events most 
commonly rejected by rationalistic critics in our day. As we have already seen, 
Christ accepted as literally true (1) the historicity of Adam (Matt. 19:5), (2) the 
rescue of Noah and his family from the Flood by means of the ark (Matt. 24:38- 
39), (3) the literal accuracy of Moses’ interview with God at the burning bush 
(Matt. 22:32), (4) the feeding of Moses’ congregation by manna from heaven 
(John 6:49), (5) the historicity of Jonah’s deliverance after three days in the belly 
of the whale (Matt. 12:40), and (6) the repentance of the pagan population of 
Nineveh in response to Jonah’s preaching (Matt. 12:41). Nothing could be clearer 
than that our divine Savior believed in the literal truthfulness of the entire Old 
Testament record, whether those accounts dealt with doctrinal matters, matters of 
science, or history. He who refuses to g© along with the Lord in this judgment 
stands guilty of asserting that God can err (since Jesus is God as well as Man) and 
that the sovereign Creator (John 1:1-3) stands in need of instruction and correc- 
tion by the finite wisdom of man. It is for this reason that we cannot possibly 
concede that the errancy of Scripture is reconcilable with true Evangelicalism or 
the historic Christian faith. 

Third, the advocates of partial inerrancy (whether of the confessedly neoor- 
thodox camp or the revisionist evangelical persuasion) fatally undermine the 
tenability of their theoretical position by their actual practice in the matter of 
teaching from the Bible. That is to say, when they preach to a congregation or 
teach at a Bible conference, they forsake their commitment to partial inerrancy 
altogether — at least insofar as they proclaim the authoritative message of Scrip- 
ture itself. Whenever a preacher declares a truth from the Bible and calls on his 
audience to believe and act on that teaching, he thereby presupposes the total 
inerrancy of Scripture. In other words, he who affirms that a statement is true 
because the Bible affirms it, can do so with integrity only if he takes the position 
that whatever the Bible teaches is necessarily true. Otherwise he must always 
append to his proclamation of the biblical message the following additional cor- 
roboration: “In this particular case, we are warranted in believing what the Bible 


25 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

says — even though it may occasionally be mistaken in matters of history or 
science — because it does not appear to contravene the findings of modern scien- 
tific or historical knowledge.” From the logical standpoint, therefore, it is a re- 
quirement of honesty that anyone who does not hold to the principle that what- 
ever the Bible affirms is true simply because it affirms it, may not preach in such a 
way as to imply that no further corroboration is needed for its statements to be 
believed. 

It is a matter of basic self-contradiction for a partial-inerrantist to hold that in 
matters of history and science the Bible may err and yet for him to expound any 
text from the Scripture as having authority in its own right. While he may perhaps 
preserve a greater measure of integrity if the text he is preaching happens to be 
purely doctrinal or theological, nevertheless he is false to his own position when 
he fails to justify his treating the text as inherently authoritative. Nearly all the 
cardinal doctrines of Scripture come in a historical framework, and very fre- 
quently in a supernatural setting. It is less than candid for a Christian spokesman 
to assure his audience that any such doctrinal affirmation in the Bible is to be 
received as factual unless he at the same time furnishes them with some sort of 
critical verification to the effect that “in this instance the Scripture speaks the 
truth.” If the historical framework must be corroborated and critically sifted for 
error, then the doctrine it contains must be regarded as suspect. If, for example, 
the resurrection of the body from the grave is regarded by most professional 
scientists as impossible, then any advocate of partial inerrancy must carefully 
justify his acceptance of the bodily resurrection of Christ (if accept it he does) by- 
adducing some other confirmation besides the mere statement in the Bible itself. 
Otherwise his proclamation that Jesus rose bodily from the grave because the 
Scripture says He did amounts to an assumption of complete inerrancy, even a 
matter of science involving the miraculous. 

Fourth, a specially attractive appeal is often made by contemporary errantists to 
accept “the cold, hard facts” that the Bible text as we now have it does contain 
discrepancies of various kinds; and, in the absence of any infallible original manu- 
scripts, we had better give up the effort to defend inerrant autographa that no 
longer exist. They urge that we should simply appreciate the Bible as it is and 
make the very best use we can of it in the form it has come down to us — marked 
with occasional mistakes of a minor sort, but still eminently usable as a guide to 
God and a saving knowledge of His will. Is it not much more honest, they urge, 
for us to be perfectly frank and admit the errors, wherever they appear, and 
simply go on from there, relying on the main and central teaching message and 
not vexing ourselves about troublesome minor details. 

What the advocates of this stance toward Scripture fail to observe is that it is 
fundamentally dishonest to adopt the line of least resistance in the face of diffi- 
culty and say to the rationalistic skeptic, “Okay, in this instance you may be right. 
But I still have a right to hang on to my faith, no matter how many technical errors 
you may be able to discover in the text of the Bible.” He who assumes such a 
position of intellectual surrender can only be classed as a weak-kneed irrationalist 
who has retreated into his own shell of subjectivity. He no longer has anything 
meaningful to contribute in the arena of debate and intelligent consideration, 
which all thinking men are responsible to engage in. 

It is morally indefensible to put down the Bible — which presents itself as the 
uniquely authoritative Word of God — as the object of man’s critical judgment so 
that one may decide (at least for himself personally) which parts of Scripture he 
may accept as binding on him and which parts he may safely disregard. To treat 


26 


INTRODUCTION 


the Bible in this way is to trifle with God, and it can only result in a process of 
progressive stultification and a steady loss of theological certainty and moral con- 
viction. Indeed, it can be reasonably argued that the plea to shy away from the 
defense of the accuracy and trustworthiness of Scripture whenever it is attacked 
on factual matters is hardly to be distinguished in principle from a policy of 
defending and adhering to the moral standards laid down in Scripture only when 
they do not conflict with modern standards of morality or when in one’s personal 
life they do not conflict with what the professing Christian wants to do (whether 
or not it is the will of God). 

Times of testing come into the life of every believer, when he has to choose 
between the hard, flesh-denying way of obedience, of integrity before God and 
man, and the way of self-indulgence, of giving in to the temptation to do what is 
easiest and pleasant from the standpoint of the self-seeking ego. He who does not 
put up a determined resistance against the seductively easy, flesh-pleasing way will 
find that he has lost his integrity, self-respect, and, indeed (apart from abject 
repentance and a complete reversal of direction), all hope of salvation. There is a 
clear analogy between this flabby response to the challenge of self-will to the 
moral integrity of a Christian believer and the response that he makes to a chal- 
lenge to the inerrant authority and complete trustworthiness of the written Word 
of God. If he casts his lot with the easy way of bland concession, hoping to salvage 
his position as a Christian by retaining his faith in the fundamentals of Christian 
doctrine, he will find that in the long run this policy of giving in to the enemy will 
lead to the complete takeover of his homeland by the foe. His failure to put up a 
credible defense of Scripture will finally result in his loss of its assurance and 
comfort in the times of crisis and danger that await him. 

The Importance of Inerrant Original Documents 

Now that the inerrancy of the original manuscripts of Scripture has been estab- 
lished as essential to its inerrant authority, we must deal with the very real prob- 
lem of the complete disappearance of the autographa themselves. Even the earliest 
and best manuscripts that we possess are not totally free of transmissional 
errors. Numbers are occasionally miscopied, the spelling of pioper names is occa- 
sionally garbled, and there are examples of the same types of scribal error that 
appear in other ancient documents as well. In that sense — and only to that 
degree — can it be said that even the finest extant manuscripts of the Hebrew- 
Aramaic Old Testament and the Greek New Testament are not wholly without 
error. It is not that they contain actual mistakes or misinformation that cannot be 
rectified by the proper exercise of the science of textual criticism; but, in the sense 
that scribal mistakes do occur even in the best of them, it is technically true that 
there are no extant inerrant originals. 

If, then, we have none of the error-free autographa that underlie the Bible text 
that has been transmitted to us, why not simply content ourselves with the less- 
than-inerrant copies and accept the plain fact that God did not find inerrancy so 
vital for inscripturated revelation that He preserved it to us in that form? What is 
the point of arguing about a collection of manuscripts that no longer exist? Is this 
not simply an academic question of a most abstruse kind, a question that surely 
should not divide the ranks of Evangelicals? 

To put the question in this way is to misrepresent the basic issue at stake in a 
manner that is utterly misleading. We have already seen that Christ regarded the 
recorded statements and affirmations of the Old Testament authors as completely 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

accurate and trustworthy, whether they dealt with theology, history, or science. 
This is really what is at stake, and it is this level of truthfulness that is involved 
rather than technical infallibility in the art of scribal transmission. The copyist 
who inadvertently misspells some word in John 3:16 cannot be said to have intro- 
duced error in the sentiment or message of that salvation verse even though he 
may have slipped in his orthography. It is something far more essential than 
typographical errors that is under consideration when scriptural inerrancy comes 
up for discussion. 

In answer to this challenge we offer the four following considerations. 

1. The integrity of Scripture as the authoritative revelation of God is bound up 
with the issue of the inerrancy of its original inscripturation. It is impossible 
for a holy and righteous God to inspire any human author of the books of 
Scripture to write down that which is at any level misleading or false. He who 
sits in judgment on all wickedness and deceit will never stoop to the use or 
toleration of falsehood in the recording of His spoken revelation or of the his- 
toric or scientific facts chosen to compose the sixty-six books of His Bible. Nor 
is it conceivable that God in His perfection would allow any human agent 
whom He employs for the writing of Scripture to introduce elements of error 
or mistake simply on the ground of his humanness. The sovereign Lord who 
could use the wooden staff of Moses to bring down the ten plagues upon 
Egypt and part the waters of the Red Sea can surely use a fallible human 
prophet to communicate His will and His truth without blundering or confu- 
sion of any kind. The inerrancy of God's written Word as it was originally in- 
spired is a necessary corollary to the inerrancy of God Himself. We must 
therefore condemn an attitude of indifference concerning the inerrancy of the 
original manuscripts of the Bible as a serious theological error. 

2. It is wrong to affirm that the existence of a perfect original is a matter of no 
importance if that original is no longer available for examination. To take an 
analogy from the realm of engineering or of commerce, it makes a very great 
difference whether there is such a thing as a perfect measure for the meter, 
the foot, or the pound. It is questionable whether the yardsticks or scales used 
in business transactions or construction projects can be described as absolutely 
perfect. They may be almost completely conformable to the standard weights 
and measures preserved at the Bureau of Standards in our nation’s capital but 
to the measure of their deviation from the official models in Washington, D.C., 
they are subject to error — however small. But how foolish it would be for any 
citizen to shrug his shoulders and say, "Neither you nor I have ever actually 
seen those standard measures in Washington; therefore we may as well disre- 
gard them — not be concerned about them at all — and simply settle realistically 
for the imperfect yardsticks and pound weights that we have available to us in 
everyday life. On the contrary, the existence of those measures in the Bureau 
of Standards is vital to the proper functioning of our entire economy. To the 
220,000,000 Americans who have never seen them they are absolutely essen- 
tial for the trustworthiness of all the standards of measurement that they resort 
to throughout their lifetime. 

3. It may be true that we no longer possess any perfect copy of the inerrant origi- 
nal manuscripts of the Bible. But it is equally true that we have only imperfect 
copies of the Lord Jesus available to us today. Christ has ascended to His glori- 
ous throne at the right hand of the Father in heaven. All the observer has to 
look at now are imperfect representatives and agents of His, in the form of 


28 


INTRODUCTION 


sanctified and committed Christians. But shall we therefore affirm that be- 
cause of His physical absence we need not concern ourselves about any stan- 
dards of absolute love and moral excellence? No, but Hebrews 12:2 commands 
us to fix our eyes on Jesus (though He is beyond our physical reach or power 
to touch), as the Author and Perfecter of our faith. The spotless Lamb of God 
is still the inerrant model for our attitudes and manner of life, even though we 
are not privileged to behold Him with the eye of flesh as the apostles did prior 
to His ascension to glory. So also, we must cherish the inerrant originals of 
Holy Scripture as free from all mistake of any kind, even though we have 
never actually seen them. 

4. If there was an admixture of error even in the original writings of the Bible, 
there is little point in textual criticism. The entire motivation behind this care- 
ful examination of the earliest manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek or in the 
ancient translations from them into other languages is based on the funda- 
mental premise of original inerrancy. What useful purpose would be served 
by tracing back with painstaking care to the original reading if that reading 
may have contained falsehood or mistake? The Bible student would only be- 
come confused or injured by the misinformation contained by what has been 
described as the infallible Word of God. Thus we see that textual criticism, if 
it is to have any real meaning or validity, presupposes an original entirely free 
from deception or mistake. 

The Remarkable Trustworthiness of the Received Text of Holy Scripture 
Why do we not now possess infallible copies of those infallible originals? Because 
the production of even one perfect copy of one book is so far beyond the capacity 
of a human scribe as to render it necessary for God to perform a miracle in order to 
produce it. No reasonable person can expect even the most conscientious copyist to 
achieve technical infallibility in transcribing his original document into a fresh copy. 
No matter how earnest he may be to dot every i and cross every t and to avoid 
confusion of homonyms (such as “their” for “there” or “lead” for “led”), he will 
commit at least an occasional slip. It is for this reason that all writers have to check 
over whatever they have written and all publishers must employ skilled editors 
and proofreaders. Yet even the most attentive of these occasionally allow blunders 
to slip by. Such was the case of the "Immoral Bible” back in the sixteenth century, 
which went to press with the seventh commandment reading, “Thou shalt commit 
adultery.” Although this edition was speedily recalled, the blunder got out to the 
public, much to the embarrassment of the publisher. These inadvertencies occur 
from time to time simply because of the imperfect quality of the attention of any 
human scribe. Nothing less than divine intervention could guarantee a completely 
errorless copy or set aside the human propensity to occasional slips in punctuation 
or spelling. But the important fact remains that accurate communication is possi- 
ble despite technical mistakes in copying. 

The real question at issue in regard to scribal error is whether an accumulation 
of minor slips has resulted in the obscuring or perversion of the message origi- 
nally intended. Well-trained textual critics operating on the basis of sound 
methodology are able to rectify almost all the misunderstandings that might result 
from manuscript error. But in the case of documents in which scribal copying has 
been carried on with a view to deliberate alteration or the indulging of personal 
bias on the part of the copyist himself, it is quite possible that the original message 
has been irrecoverably altered. The question in regard to the text of the Bible 
centers on the data of textual criticism. Is there objective proof from the surviving 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

manuscripts of Scripture that these sixty-six books have been transmitted to us 
with such a high degree of accuracy as to assure us that the information contained 
in the originals has been perfectly preserved? The answer is an unqualified yes. 

In contrast to most other ancient documents that have survived in multiplied 
copies (such as the Egyptian Tale of Sinuhe or the Behistun Rock trilingual inscrip- 
uon of Darius I), collation of many hundreds of manuscript copies from the third 
century b.c. to the sixth century a.d. yields an amazingly limited range of variation 
in actual wording. In fact, it has long been recognized by the foremost specialists 
in textual criticism that if any decently attested variant were taken up from the 
apparatus at the bottom of the page and were substituted for the accepted reading 
of the standard text, there would in no case be a single, significant alteration in 
doctrine or message. This can only be explained as the result of a special measure 
of control exercised by the God who inspired the original manuscripts of Scrip- 
ture so as to insure their preservation for the benefit of His people. A degree of 
deviation so serious as to affect the sense would issue in failure to achieve the 
purpose for which the revelation was originally given: that men might be assured 
of God’s holiness and grace, and that they might know of His will for their 
salvation. 

Readers interested in pursuing further the subject of textual criticism of the 
Old Testament or wanting information concerning the ancient copies of the He- 
brew Scriptures discovered in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea are encour- 
aged to consult Ernst Wiirthwein’s The Text of the Old Testament (Oxford: Basil 
Blackwell, 1957) or my Survey of Old Testament Introduction (chaps. 3-4). For the 
text of the New Testament, consult A.T. Robertson, An Introduction to the Textual 
Criticism of the New Testament, 2d ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1928) or Vincent 
Taylor, The Text of the New Testament (London: Macmillan, 1961). 

Scripture and Inerrancy 

The foregoing discussion has demonstrated that the objective authority of 
Scripture requires inerrancy in the original autographa. Also, we have argued 
that infallibility necessarily requires inerrancy as its indispensable corollary. But as 
we have observed in the opening pages of this Introduction, revisionists have 
charged that the so-called phenomena of Scripture do not permit a credible 
defense of the claim that the Bible as originally given was free from error, even in 
matters of history and science. The contradictions and discrepancies in Scripture 
compel us to choose between which statement is right and which is wrong. Advo- 
cates of this approach invariably present lists of such alleged contradictions or 
statements that clash with findings of historical criticism and science. This chal- 
lenge must not go unanswered; for if the revisionists’ contention is correct, then 
inerrancy must indeed be surrendered — with all the devastating implications for 
the possibility of objective revelation. The main task of this present work is to 
demonstrate the unsoundness of this charge by examining the alleged discrepan- 
cies and in turn showing in each case that the charge is not well founded in fact, 
once all the relevant evidence has been considered. 

The other chief line of evidence followed by these scholars pertains to the 
extensive use by New Testament authors of the Septuagint translation (Greek) of 
the Old Testament. It is argued that since the Septuagint often deviates substan- 
tially from the Masoretic Hebrew text, such employment of an inexact translation 
shows that to the New Testament authors the authority of the Old Testament was 
conceptual rather than verbal. And, of course, if the authoritative teaching of the 


30 


INTRODUCTION 


Hebrew Scriptures was to be found only in its concepts rather than in its wording, 
this virtually excludes any meaningful adherence to inerrancy. Particularly in 
those instances (rare though they may be) where the Septuagint passage is some- 
what inexact in its treatment of the Hebrew original (at least as the Hebrew has 
been transmitted to us in the Masoretic text), it must be concluded that the New 
Testament writer did not consider the precise wording of the Old Testament a 
matter of real importance. 

Logical though this deduction might seem at first glance, it fails to take into 
account several important considerations. 

1. The very reason for using the Septuagint translation (which originated among 
the Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, in the third and second centuries b.c.) was 
rooted in the missionary outreach of the evangelists and apostles of the early 
church. Long before the first disciples of our Lord set out to spread the Good 
News, the Septuagint had found its way into nearly every Greek-speaking 
region of the Roman Empire. In fact, it was the only form of the Old Testa- 
ment in circulation outside Palestine itself. As the apostles went from one 
Gentile city to another and brought the message of Christ to the Jews of the 
Dispersion, it was their primary purpose to show that Jesus of Nazareth had 
fulfilled the types and promises of the Old Testament, that holy record of 
God’s saving truth that they already had in their hands. What other form of the 
Old Testament was available to them but the Septuagint? Only the rabbis and 
scholars had access to the Hebrew manuscripts, and no other Greek translation 
was available than the time-honored version from Alexandria. And so when 
the "noble Bereans” went home from their synagogue to check up on the 
teaching of Paul and Silas, what other Scriptures could they consult but their 
Septuagint? 

Suppose Paul had chosen to work out a new, more accurate translation into 
Greek directly from the Hebrew. Might not the Bereans have said in reply, 
"That’s not the way we find it in our Bible. How do we know you have not 
slanted your different rendering here and there in order to favor your new 
teaching about Christ?” In order to avoid suspicion and misunderstanding, it 
was imperative for the apostles and evangelists to stay with the Septuagint in 
their preaching and teaching, both oral and written. On the other hand, we 
find in the case of Matthew and Hebrews that the Septuagint plays a much less 
important role. The frequent and copious quotations from the Old Testament 
found in these two books are often non-Septuagintal in wording and are per- 
ceptibly closer to the Hebrew original than the Septuagint itself. This is ac- 
counted for by the fact that both Matthew and the author of Hebrews were 
writing to a Palestinian Jewish readership, to whom the Masoretic or Sopherim 
text (as it is technically known) was close at hand. 

2. In the overwhelming majority of cases where the Septuagint is quoted in the 
New Testament documents, the Greek rendering is beyond reproach in the 
matter of accuracy. The instances where a more paraphrastic rendering is 
quoted from the Septuagint are in the small minority— even though these few 
deviations have attracted much discussion on the part of critics. But even 
where there are noticeable differences in phraseology, there are virtually no 
examples of quotations from Hebrew passages that would not support the 
point that the New Testament author intends to make as he quotes from the 
Old Testament. Inasmuch as the Septuagint contains a good many sections 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

that substantially differ from the Hebrew of the Masoretic text, it can only be 
inferred that the apostolic authors purposely avoided any passages of the 
Septuagint that perverted the sense of the original. 

3. The argument from the use of the Septuagint to the effect that the New 
Testament authors regarded the inspiration of the Old Testament as merely 
conceptual, not verbal, is completely belied by the example of Christ Himself. 
For instance, in Matthew 22:32 our Lord pointed out the implications of the 
exact wording of Exodus 3:6: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of 
Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This particular quotation is verbally identical 
with the Septuagint, which supplies the word “am” ( eimi ) that is not actually 
expressed in the Hebrew original, even though it is clearly understood in a 
verbless clause such as this, according to the standard rules of Hebrew 
grammar. Jesus makes the point here that God would not have spoken of 
Himself as the God of mere corpses moldering in their graves for three or four 
centuries since their death. "He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the 
living,” said Jesus. Therefore, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must have all been 
alive and well at the time Yahweh spoke to Moses from the burning bush in the 
early Fifteenth century b.c. 

Very similar attention to the exact wording of the Old Testament original 
text was involved in Christ’s use of Psalm 110:1 [109:1 Septuagint] in his 
discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:43-45. This quotation differs 
from the Septuagint by only one word (hypopodion, “footstool”). But the point 
of it was that the Lord (Yahweh) said to David’s Lord — who was at the same 
time his messianic descendant — “Sit at My right hand until I make Your 
enemies Your footstool.” By this remarkable passage Jesus demonstrated that 
the Messiah was to not only be a physical descendant of King David (tenth 
century b.c.) but was also David’s divine Lord and Master. 

4. The whole line of reasoning that says quoting Scripture from a less-than- 
perfect translation of the original necessarily implies a cavalier attitude toward 
inspired autographon is vitiated by an obvious fallacy. All of us, even the most 
highly qualified experts in biblical languages, customarily quote Scripture in 
the standard published translations available to our audiences or readers. But 
such use of the various translations, whether English, German, French, or 
Spanish, by no means proves that we have settled for a low view of scriptural 
inerrancy. We, like the First-century apostles, resort to these standard transla- 
tions to teach our people in terms they can verify by resorting to their own 
Bibles. Yet, admittedly, none of these translations is completely free of faults. 
We use them, nevertheless, for the purposes of more effective communication 
than if we were to translate directly from the Hebrew or Greek. But this use of 
translations that fall short of perfection by no means implies the abandonment 
of conviction that the Scriptures as originally given were free from all error. 

We must, therefore, conclude that the employment of the Septuagint in New 
Testament quotations from the Old Testament proves nothing whatever in favor 
of noninerrancy. 

The Role of Textual Criticism in Correcting Transmissional Errors 

In the preceding discussion we referred several times to the role of textual criti- 
cism in dealing with scribal errors in the transmission of the biblical text. So the 
reader may have some understanding of the methodology followed by scholars 
in handling such deviations, which appear in even the earliest and best extant 


32 


INTRODUCTION 


manuscripts, we will indicate the guidelines to be followed in resolving such prob- 
lems. The standard procedures for dealing with transmissional errors apply to 
all ancient documents, whether secular or sacred; but, of course, there are special 
features that relate to the biblical languages. These would include the shapes of 
the Hebrew letters as they evolved from the earlier period to later times, along 
with the gradual introduction of vowel-letters (i.e., consonants that indicate which 
vowel sounds or vowel quantities were to be used in words). In the case of the 
New Testament, composed in a language that used vowel characters as well as 
consonants (koine Greek), the changes in letter shape would also give rise to mis- 
copying in the course of several generations of scribes. 

A. Types of Transmissional Errors 

Certain kinds of errors are apt to arise in copying any original document ( Vor - 
lage). We are all prone to substitute one homonym for another; i.e., “hole” for 
“whole” or “it’s” for “its.” English has a very difficult spelling system; the same 
sound may be written in a variety of ways: “way” or “weigh”; “to,” “too,” or “two.” 
This problem was not so acute in ancient Hebrew or Greek; but there are occa- 
sional misspellings that occur even in the earliest copies of the biblical books, 
largely on the basis of similarity in sound. One of the most serious is the word 
Id. If it is written (lamedh-aleph), it is the negative “not”; but if it is written l-w 
(lamedh-waw), it means “to him” or ‘Tor him.” Usually the context gives a clear 
indication as to which of these Ids is intended; but occasionally either “not” or “for 
him” would be possible, and so a bit of confusion results. 

One good example of the lo confusion is found in Isaiah 9:2 (9:3 in the English 
text). The Masoretic text (MT) reads making Id mean “not.” KJV’s translation 
is “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and [supplied in italics] not increased the joy; 
they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest.” This rendering, however, 
introduces a strange reversal in the flow of the thought: God has increased the 
nation; yet He has not increased their joy, and yet they rejoice like those who 
gather in a bountiful harvest. But even the Masoretic Jewish scribes perceived this 
to be an inadvertent misspelling; so they put in the margin the correct spelling 
l-w. Then the verse means “Thou hast multiplied the nation [no “and”], Thou hast 
increased the joy for it; they joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest.” The 
Syriac Peshitta so renders it, and likewise the Aramaic Targum of Jonathan and 
twenty medieval Hebrew manuscripts read it as l-w rather than l-’. Because it 
reads both aleph and waw, spelling Id as l-w-’, lQIsa is not very helpful here. The 
Septuagint (LXX) is no help at all because the translator garbled the Hebrew com- 
pletely and does not have either type of lo indicated in his rendering (“The ma- 
jority of the people, which You have brought down in Your joy, they also will joy 
before You like those who rejoice in harvest.” But it is at least 90 percent certain 
that NASB is correct in its translation: “Thou shalt multiply the nation. Thou 
shalt increase their gladness; they will be glad in Thy presence as with the glad- 
ness of harvest.” 

After considering this example of textual correction, let us survey eleven main 
kinds of transmissional errors known to the field of textual criticism. 

1. Haplography 

Essentially, haplography means writing once what should have been written 
twice. In student papers one often reads occurence instead of occurrence: the r has 
been written just once — which would make the word sound like o-cure-ence, ac- 
cording to our regular English spelling rules. In Hebrew it may be a single con- 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

sonant that appears where there should have been two. Or it may be that two 
consonants are involved, or even two words. For example, in Isaiah 26:3 — “You 
will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You” 
— the final words literally are “in you trusting,” followed by “Trust in Yahweh” 
in v.4. In Hebrew the final word “trusting” is batuah, written b-t-w-h; the initial 
“trust" in v.4 is bithu, written b-l-h-xu. As they appear in the unpointed conson- 
ants, then, we have b-t.-w-h b-t-h-xv. These two words are therefore almost identi- 
cal in appearance, even though the first is a masculine singular adjective and the 
second a plural imperative of the verb. Scroll lQIsa has only b-k b-(-h-xv, omitting 
the previous b-t-xv-h altogether. Hence the Dead Sea Scrolls of Isaiah condense 
verses 3 and 4 to read thus: “A mind supported You will keep in real peace [lit., 
salom salb in, ‘peace peace’]; because in you . . . they have trusted [or else a new 
sentence: ‘Trust’] in Yahweh forever.” The MT reads (correctly): “A mind sup- 
ported You will keep in real peace, because it is trusting in You. Trust in Yah- 
weh.” It should be added that the word translated “trust” implies the vowel point- 
ing bithu \ the lQIsa context might imply a different pointing; i.e., bathu, which 
means “they have trusted.” The LXX implies only a single salom and a single verb 
bathu, for it translates the whole section (including v.2) as follows: “Open the 
gates, let there enter in a people who observe righteousness and observe truth, 
laying hold of truth [apparently reading ye.ser (‘mind’) as the participle noser 
(‘observing, keeping’)] and keeping peace. For in You [v.4] they have hoped [or 
‘trusted’], O Lord [the regular substitution for Yahxueh] forever [‘"de-ad, lit., ‘unto 
the age,’ a rendering attested by both the MT and the corrected reading of 
lQIsa].” 

In other instances haplography may have occurred in the MT itself, as is prob- 
ably the case in Judges 20:13. The regular Old Testament usage is to refer to the 
tribesmen of Benjamin as b'‘ne-binyamin, but the Sopherim consonantal text reads 
the tribal name binyamin alone (which also occasionally occurs). But LXX indicates 
the normal “the sons of Benjamin” reading ( hoi hum Beniamin) in both the A 
version and the B version (Judges in the LXX has two different Greek versions, 
both going back to the same Hebrew Vorlage, apparently). Interestingly enough, 
even the Masoretic scribes believed that the “sons of’ should be in there, for they 
included the vowel points for b'ne (“sons of’), even though they did not feel free 
to put in the consonants of the word in such a way as to alter the Sopherim con- 
sonantal text that had been handed down to them. 

2. Dittograplxy 

This common transcriptional error consists of writing twice what is to be written 
only once. A clear example of this in the MT is Ezekiel 48:16: h"mes h"mes me’dt 
(“five five hundreds”). Noting this mistake, the Masoretes left the second h"mes 
without vowel pointing, indicating that the word should be omitted altogether in 
the reading. In lQIsa, Isaiah 30:30 reads hasmia' hasmia' (“Hear, hear”), instead of 
the single hasmia' that appears in the MT and is attested by the versions. 

Another example of probable dittography occurs in Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7 Eng.), 
which reads at the end of v.5 sar-salom (“prince of peace”) and at the beginning of 
v.6 Bmarbeh hammisrah (“of the increase of government”). Now this makes per- 
fectly good sense in Hebrew as it stands, but there is one peculiar feature about 
the spelling of i'marbeh. The m (mem) is written in the special form that occurs at 
the end of a word. This clearly indicates that the Sopherim scribes found two dif- 
ferent traditions concerning this reading: one that read only salom (at the end of 


34 


INTRODUCTION 


v.5) and began v.6 with r-b-h (which should be vocalized as rabbah, “great”; i.e., 
“Great shall be the government”). 

A final example of dittography is taken from the last verse of Psalm 23: “And I 
will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” As pointed by the Masoretes, the 
verb form w'sabti would have to mean “And I will return [to the house]” — as if the 
psalmist had left the Lord’s house and now expected to return to it permanently. 
But if the consonants are pointed w''sibli, then we have the reading of the LXX: 
kai to katoikein me (“And my dwelling” [will be in the house]). This is rather unusual 
from the standpoint of Hebrew style, even though it is by no means impossible. 
Perhaps the most attractive option, however, is to understand this word as a case 
of haplography. With the introduction of the square Hebrew form of the alphabet 
after the return from Babylonian Exile, the shape of w (waw) greatly resembled 
that of y (yodh); and by the period of lQIsa, it often happened that a long-tailed 
yodh looked precisely like a short-tailed waw. That being the case, it would be easy 
for haplography to occur whenever a yodh and a waw occurred together. The 
Greek copyist, then, might have seen what looked like two waw’s together and 
figured that this was a mistake for a single waw, and hence left out the second 
one — which actually should have been a yodh. If this reconstruction is correct, 
then the original wording used by David was w e yasabti, meaning, “And I will 
dwell,” expressed in the normal and customary Hebrew way. 

3. Metathesis 

This involves an inadvertent exchange in the proper order of letters or words. 
For example, lQIsa has at the end of Isaiah 32:19 the phrase “the forest will fall” 
rather than MT’s corrected reading “the city is leveled completely.” It so happens 
that the word for “forest” ( ya'ar ) is written with the same consonants as the word 
for “city” (‘ ir ). Since the verb tispal (“is leveled completely”) is in the feminine and 
ya'ar is masculine, the word for “city” — which is feminine — is the only possible 
reading. But the confusion of the Isaiah-scroll scribe is understandable since the 
word ya'ar does occur in the preceding clause of this verse: “though hail flattens 
the forest [hayya'ar].” 

In Ezekiel 42:16, however, it is obviously the MT that is in error, reading, “five 
cubits rods” ( h"mes-embt_qanim ) instead of “five hundred rods” (h"mes me’olqanim), 
which is the correction indicated by the Masoretes by having their vowel points go 
with the word for “hundreds” rather than with the word for “cubits.” The LXX, 
the Latin Vulgate, and all the other versions read “five hundred” here rather 
than “five cubits.” 

4. Fusion 

This consists of combining the last letter of the first word with the first letter of 
the following word, or else of combining two separate words into a single com- 
pound word. A probable example of the latter type is found in Amos 6:12, where 
the MT reads, “Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow with oxen?” 
Obviously a farmer does plow with oxen, whereas horses do not run on rocky 
crags. Now it is possible to insert a “them” after the word “plow” (so NASB) or to 
insert an adverb “there” (so KJV, NIV). But actually there is no word in the 
Hebrew for either “them” or “there”; and it might therefore be better to split off 
the plural ending -i(y)m from the word b r qari(y)m (“oxen”) and understand it as 
the word yam (“sea”). Then the amended clause would read thus: “Does an ox 
plow the sea?” — an illustration of futile or senseless procedure, similar to horses 


35 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

running on bare rock. The only problem with this emendation, advocated by the 
critical apparatus of Kind's Biblia Hebraica, is that no ancient version or surviving 
Hebrew manuscript so divides it. 

Another textual problem of more far-reaching consequence is the apparent 
reference to a mysterious “Azazel” in Leviticus 16:8. In the procedure prescribed 
for the Day of Atonement, the high priest is to cast two lots for the two goats 
chosen for sacrifice. The NIV reads, “One lot for the Lord and the other for the 
scapegoat ['"za'zel]." The MT indicates some otherwise unknown proper name, 
Azazel, which was explained by the medieval rabbis as a designation of a hairy 
desert demon. Aaron, then, would be casting a lot for a demon. Now since there 
is no allowance made for the service or the worship of demons anywhere else in 
the Torah, it is most improbable that it should appear here (and in the following 
verses of the same chapter). The obvious solution to this enigma is found in sepa- 
rating the two parts of za’zel into ‘ ez 'azel, that is, the “goat of departure, or 
dismissal.” In other words, as v.10 makes clear, this second goat is to be led off 
into the wilderness and there let go, thus symbolically bearing away the sins of all 
Israel from the camp of the Hebrew nation. Unquestionably the LXX so under- 
stood it, with its to apopompaio (“for the one to be sent off’) and likewise the 
Vulgate with its capro emissario (“for the goat that is to be sent away”). So if we 
separate the two words that were improperly fused together in the Hebrew text, 
we have a reading that makes perfect sense in context, and which does not bring 
up an otherwise unexampled concession to demonology. In other words, “scape- 
goat” (KJV, NASB, NIV) is really the right rendering to follow, rather than “for 
Azazel” (ASV, RSV). 

5. Fission 

This refers to the improper separation of one word into two. For example, in 
Isaiah 61:1 the Final word in Hebrew is p'qah-qdh, according to the MT. Apart 
from this passage, there is no such separate qdah known in the Old Testament, or, 
indeed, in all Hebrew literature. Even lQIsa reads this word as one reduplicated 
stem, pqlhqwh, and so do many later Hebrew manuscripts. None of the versions 
indicate an awareness of two words here, but they all translate the Hebrew as 
“liberation” or “release” or even “recovery of sight” — relating pqhqwh to the root 
pqh, which refers to the opening of one’s eyes in order to see clearly. Without 
doubt, therefore, the hyphen (or maqqef) should be removed from the text and 
the word read as a single unit. 

Another interesting example of Fission is in Isaiah 2:20, where the MT reads 
lahpor perot_ (“to a hole of rats”). This is by no means a difficult reading, and it 
yields satisfactory sense as a proper place for discarding heathen idols. But on the 
other hand, the lQIsa reading fuses the two into llirprm (with a masculine plural 
ending rather than feminine), which would probably mean “to the Field mice.” 
The Theodotion Greek does not know what to make of the word and so simply 
transcribes it into the meaningless pharphardth\ but at least it indicates that the 
Hebrew Vorlage read the two parts as a single word. The meaning would then be 
that the Field mice would do a good job of gnawing to bits the heathen idols 
discarded in the Field by their disillusioned worshipers. However, it must be ad- 
mitted that the case for this emendation is not quite conclusive, and it should be 
regarded as merely a tentative correction. 

6. Homophony 

It often happens in every language that words of entirely different meaning 
may sound alike, like the English words “beat” and “beet”; or even the noun 


36 


INTRODUCTION 


“well,” the verb “well (up),” and the adverb “well.” We have already alluded to a 
notable example in Isaiah 9, where 16 (“for him”) was incorrectly given in the MT 
as Id’ (“not”). Another obvious example is Micah 1:15, where the MT reads ’abi 
lak (“my father to you”) rather than ’abi lak (“I will bring to you” — the meaning 
obviously demanded by the context). The Masoretic notation in the margin favors 
the addition of an ’ (aleph) to ’abi. The LXX so translates it (agago soi) and also the 
Vulgate (adducam tibi). As a matter of fact, it is conceivable that in Micah’s day 
(eighth century b.c.) the imperfect of the verb “to bring” may have been option- 
ally spelled without the aleph, owing to a greater brevity in the indication of 
sound. 

7. Misreading similar-appearing letters 

This type of error can actually be dated in history because at various stages of 
the alphabet development some letters, which later were written quite differently, 
resembled one another in shape. A notable example of this is the letter y (yodh), 
which greatly resembled the w (waw) from the postexilic period, when the square 
Hebrew form of the alphabet was introduced. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus 
spoke of the “jot” (yodh) as the smallest letter in the alphabet — “One jot or one 
tittle of the law shall not pass away until all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18). But up until 
the early sixth century b.c., yodh was as large a letter as many others in the alpha- 
bet and bore no resemblance whatever to the waw. Therefore we may confidently 
date all examples of confusion between yodh and waw to the third century b.c. 
or later. 

Examples of misreading similar letters abound in lQIsa. In Isaiah 33:13 it 
reads yd'w (“let them know”) rather than MT’s wd'w (“and know ye”). More sig- 
nificantly we find in the MT of Psalm 22:17 (16 Eng.) the strange phrase “like 
the lion my hands and my feet” (ka’ a riydday w e ragldy) in a context that reads “dogs 
have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me — like the lion my hands 
and my feet!” This really makes no sense, for lions do not surround the feet of 
their victims. Rather, they pounce on them and bite them through with their 
teeth. Furthermore, this spelling of the word for “lion” (’“nj is rendered more 
than doubtful by the fact that in v.13 (14MT) the word “lion” appears in the nor- 
mal way as ’aryeh. It is most unlikely that the author would have used two different 
spellings of the same word within three verses of each other. Far more likely 
is the reading supported by most of the versions: ka’ru (“They [i.e., the dogs or 
evildoers] have pierced” my hands and my feet). This involves merely reading 
the final letter yodh as a waw, which would make it the past tense of a third person 
plural verb. This is apparently what the LXX read, for oryxan (“they have bored 
through”) reflects a karu from the verb kur (“pierce, dig through”). The Vulgate 
conforms to this with foderunt (“they have dug through”). The Syriac Peshitta 
has baz’w, which means “they have pierced through/penetrated.” Probably the ’ 
(aleph) in ka’ru represents a mere vowel lengthener that occasionally appears in 
the Hasmonean manuscripts such as lQIsa and the sectarian literature of the 
second century b.c. 

Another pair of easily confused letters is d (daleth) and r (resh). It so happens 
that at all stages of the Hebrew alphabet, both the old epigraphic and the later 
square Hebrew, these two always looked alike. Thus we find that the race referred 
to in Genesis 10:4 as the “Dodanim” appears in 1 Chronicles 1:7 as the “Rodanim.” 
It is generally thought that Rodanim is the better reading because the reference 
seems to be to the Rhodians of the Asia Minor coastline. A rather bizarre aber- 
ration in the LXX rendering of Zechariah 12:10 is best accounted for by a con- 


37 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

fusion of r and d. The MT reads, “They shall look upon me whom they have 
pierced [ddqaru]." But the Greek version reads, “They shall look on me, because 
they will dance in triumph over [me].” The incongruous “dance” comes from 
misreading ddqaru as raqadu, which involves reading the d as r and the r as d, 
all in the same word. But Theodotion preserves the correct reading by rendering 
exekentesan (“they pierced through”). 

One of the most interesting and involved cases of letter confusion is found in 
the LXX rendition of the name of the pagan god mentioned in Amos 5:26. The 
MT spells this name as kyum (“Chiun,” KJV), but the LXX gives it as Raiphan, 
implying rypn as their reading of their Vorlage. Now it so happens that in the 
period of the Elephantine Papyri (fifth century b.c.), k (kaph) was shaped very 
much like r (resh), and w (waw) greatly resembled p (pe). This meant that kyum 
could be mistaken as rypn. If the Vorlage read by the LXX looked like rypn, the 
translators had no way to correct it to the better reading because it was a foreign, 
heathen name. But we now know from the Akkadian spelling of the name of this 
god, associated with the planet Saturn and pronounced Kaiwanu, that kyum was 
the true, historical spelling of the name back in Amos’s day. The interesting 
feature about Raiphan, however, is that it is so spelled in Stephen’s quotation of 
Amos 5:26 appearing in Acts 7:43. As he addresses a mixed audience of Greek- 
speaking and Aramaic-speaking Jews, and representing as he does the Greek- 
speaking Dispersion of the Jews, he quotes from the LXX, rather than going back 
to the original Hebrew. For missisonary purposes most of the apostles quoted 
from the LXX, simply because that was the only form of the Old Testament 
available to the Greek-speaking population of the Roman Empire. If they were to 
“search the Scriptures” to see whether Paul and the other Christian evangelists 
were treating the Old Testament fairly, they had to check in the LXX version to 
confirm the apostolic message as the truth of God. 

On the other hand, there are some instances where the LXX seems to preserve 
a better reading than the MT, though this happens but rarely. In the Jerusalem 
church council narrated in Acts 15:17, James quotes a clinching argument for the 
divine warrant authorizing the addition of Gentile converts to the church without 
forcing them to become Jewish proselytes. He builds on the promise of Amos 
9:11-12, which he quotes as “that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and 
all the Gentiles [ethne, “nations”] who bear My name.” The received text reads as 
follows: “So that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the nations that 
bear My name.” If that was the reading of the Hebrew text in the middle of the 
first century a. d., then James would have been rejected as grossly misquoting 
Scripture; for the whole point of the passage according to James was that the 
“remnant of men” were going to “seek the Lord.” But if the only valid reading 
was yid'su (“possess”), rather than the yidd’su implied by the LXX “(that they 
may seek”), then James’ argument would have been totally beside the point. The 
progress of the textual corruption is easily reconstructed. If we assume that the 
original text read l 1 ’ ma‘an yidr * su 'dtp ( w) s e 'erit 'adam (“that the remnant of men may 
seek him”), then we can see that the word 'adam (“men”) might early have been mis- 
read as 'edom (“Edom”) since in the earlier orthography they would have been 
identical in appearance. The yidresu may have looked like yirresu, especially after d 
(daleth) acquired a short tail in the period of the Lachish Ostraca (Jeremiah’s 
time); and the copyist may have thought he was looking at a dittograph that 
needed correction to yiresu — which in turn might well be construed as equivalent 
to yi(y)d’su (from yarns, “to possess”), inasmuch as the second y would hardly have 
appeared in writing according to the older orthography. The 'et of the MT, which 


38 


INTRODUCTION 


is the sign of the direct object, may have been miscopied front an original ’dto(w), 
which failed to come through with the intended Final w (waw). All this variation 
could have resulted from misreading only two letters: r for d, and a Final w 
inadvertently dropped from ’oto(w). The mere fact that James’s Jewish fellow 
elders, steeped as they were in the Hebrew Scriptures, offered no objection on 
the ground of misquotation is very powerful evidence that the LXX was true to 
the original Hebrew text at this point. 

8. Homueoleleuton 

This Greek term means “having the same ending” and identiFies the loss of text 
that can result when the eye of the copyist inadvertently passes over all the words 
preceding a final phrase that is identical with that which closes the sentence 
immediately preceding, or immediately following. Having taken his eyes off the 
Vorlage in order to copy down what he has just read, he turns back to it and 
sees the w'ords he has just finished writing down. Supposing that he is ready to 
move on to the next sentence, he fails to observe that he has left out all the words 
preceding the second appearance of the repeated phrase. For example, in Isaiah 
4:4-6 the copyist who wrote out lQIsa encountered verses that had two occur- 
rences of yomdm (“by day”). The complete text should read as follows: “Then 
Yahweh will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a 
cloud by day, even smoke and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for 
overall the glory there will be a canopy. And there will be a shelter to give shade 
from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and rain.” Now 
when the eye of the scribe jumped from the first “by day” to the second “by day,” 
he left out fourteen Hebrew words in between. Unfortunately this could happen 
even in the more carefully preserved text-tradition of the MT itself. One notable 
instance occurs in Psalm 145, which is an alphabetic acrostic. Each successive 
verse begins with the next letter of the twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet. Now 
it so happens that the MT of v.13 begins with rn (mem), that is, the first word is 
malkufka (“your kingdom”). But then v.14 begins, not with n (nun, the following 
letter in the alphabet), but with s (samekh, the letter following after nun): somek 
YHWH t'kol-hanndp'lim (“Yahweh upholds all those who fall down”). Where is the 
verse in between? Fortunately it has been preserved in the Greek of the LXX; and 
by translating this back to Hebrew, we come out with the probable original line: 
ne^man YHWH If kol-d'' barayiu ufhdsul lflwl->na'"sayw (“Yahweh is faithful in all his 
words and gracious in all his works”). The recurrence of YHWH bf’kol (“Yahweh 
in all”) soon after YHWH t'kol (“Yaweh to all”) was enough to throw the scribe 
off; and some time after the LXX translation of the Psalter had been completed, 
the verse beginning with n became entirely lost in the Masoretic text. 

9. Humoeoarkton 

This means “that which has a similar beginning” and involves a similar loss of 
intervening words, as the eye of the scribe jumps from one beginning to another. 
A striking example may be found in 1 Samuel 14:41, where the MT reads, “And 
Saul said to Yahweh, ‘O God of Israel, grant a perfect one [i.e., a perfect lot].’” 
The situation demanded a discovery of God’s leading in a time of national crisis. 
But according to the LXX version, Saul prefaced this request for a correct lot by 
a lengthy petition, saying, “Why have you not answered your servant today? If 
the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim; but if the men oflsrael 
are at fault, respond with Thummim.” The spelling of “a perfect one” (/ amirn ) 
and “Thummim” ( lummim ) would have been the same in the consonantal text of the 


39 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

Hebrew Vorlage. (It should be explained that the Urim and Thummim were the two 
precious gems contained in a special compartment of the breastplate of the high 
priest and were to be used in ascertaining God’s will when a choice was to be made 
between two alternatives.) Saul and his army, pursuing the defeated Philistines, 
needed to know whether God would have them continue the pursuit for another 
day; but God withheld giving them any clear guidance. Therefore Saul concluded 
that someone in his army must have transgressed against the Lord, and he was 
ready to resort to the casting of lots to find out who the culprit was. It so hap- 
pened that Jonathan, unaware of Saul’s vow invoked on anyone who would 
partake of food before the Philistines had been completely destroyed, had come 
across a comb of wild honey in the woods; and so be had quickly snatched up 
some of the honey to his mouth. Thus it came about that he who was the greatest 
hero of the hour — for he had started the rout of the Philistines against over- 
whelming odds — was about to be marked for death. But the eye of the Hebrew 
scribe unfortunately jumped from the first ’’’lohe yisrael (“O God of Israel”) to 
the second one, passing over no less than twenty-six Hebrew words in between. 
But here again the LXX supplies us with all the missing words in Greek, and from 
these we can reconstruct them in Hebrew, as has been done in the critical appa- 
ratus of Kittel’s edition. 

10 . Accidental omission of words 

Homoeoteleuton and homoeoarkton account for the omission of substantial 
numbers of words. Here, however, we are considering the loss of an occasional 
word, where similar phrases are not the source of the difficulty, but where some 
ancient version, such as the LXX, furnishes us with a clue that a word has been 
lost in the received Hebrew text. Sometimes this omission occurred before the 
third century b.c., and so not even the LXX can retrieve it for us. Such an instance 
is 1 Samuel 13:1, which in the MT says, “Saul was. . . years old when he began to 
reign.” The numeral has dropped out completely, and there is no way of ascer- 
taining what it was. Many textual critics suggest other passages where a word has 
dropped out; but this falls into the class of mere conjecture and remains a matter 
of opinion, nothing more. We had best content ourselves with the objective data 
of the received text and the early versions. In the absence of special guidance 
from God, no such suggestion has any higher value than mere guesswork. 

11 . Variants based on vowel points only 

As we have already seen, the Hebrew Scriptures existed only in the form of con- 
sonants all during the Old Testament period and indeed until well into the seventh 
or eighth century a.d. There is no clear evidence of the use of vowel indicators 
until the age of the Masoretes. A similar delay in the insertion of vowel points is 
demonstrable for Syriac and Arabic as well. But there was a very definite oral tra- 
dition preserved by the scribal order as to how the consonants were to be vocalized. 
From the LXX we can learn much as to the earlier pronunciation of Hebrew in 
the third and second centuries b.c., for there are many proper names spelled out 
with Greek vowels. As a matter of fact, a scholar named Origen in the third century 
a.d. prepared a vocalization of the Old Testament by the use of a Greek trans- 
literation in column 2 of his Hexapla\ but unfortunately rather little of that has 
been preserved. 

The late origin of vowel points, which were not systematically inserted into the 
consonantal text until the Masoretic period, means that we must rely heavily on 
the oral tradition of the Jewish custodians of the Old Testament original. We can 


40 


INTRODUCTION 


safely assume that in the vast majority of cases their voweling is true to the mean- 
ing of the original author. But there remain a small percentage of arguable pas- 
sages where a slightly different pointing might significantly affect the meaning. In 
general, of course, Hebrew is perfectly understandable to those who regularly 
speak Hebrew, even though there are no vowel points indicated. Virtually all 
documents in Israel today are printed in consonants only, and there is never any 
dispute as to the sound or meaning of the words so written. (The same is true of 
Arabic and Syriac as well.) Nevertheless in dealing with literature written two 
thousand years ago, it remains true that speech patterns are far more varied — 
particularly in poetic genres — than would be true with modern Hebrew; and vowel 
points are a very necessary safeguard for accurate interpretation. 

To illustrate some of the problems involving correct vowel pointing, let me dis- 
cuss a few passages relating to the Lord Jesus. Each of these has been pointed dif- 
ferently by the Masoretes from what is indicated by the early versions or (in some 
cases) by the New Testament. 

1. Isaiah 7:11 contains the invitation to King Ahaz to name any miraculous sign 
he wishes to confirm that Isaiah’s message of deliverance for Judah by God is truly 
of the Lord. Isaiah then says (according to the MT): “Ask for a sign for yourself 
from Yahweh your God; make the request [sTalah] deep, or exalt it on high.” 
This amounts to inviting him to name any kind of miracle in the heaven above or 
in the earth beneath. Interestingly enough, the Greek versions all point to a dif- 
ferent voweling of . f'alah , namely, st'lah, meaning “to Sheol [Hades].” The LXX 
has eis bathos (“to the deep”); likewise Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion render 
it either eis bathos or eis Haden (“to Hades”). So also does Jerome in the Vulgate: 
in profunda m iiferni (“to the depth of Hades”). This adds up to considerable weight 
on the side of the emendation. 

2. In Isaiah 9:5(6 Eng.) the MT reads, “And one [or ‘he’] shall call” his name 
Wonderful. But the LXX (which is very sloppy in its rendering of this passage, to 
be sure) makes it the present passive kaleitai, which means “his name is called.” 
The Vulgate vocabitur is likewise passive: “will be called”; the Syriac ethqri is 
present passive, just like the LXX. All this adds up to a pretty strong case for re- 
pointing the MT yiqra to the passive yiqqare’ (“shall be called”). It makes a little 
better sense in the context and involves no change in the consonants. 

3. In Micah 5:1(2 Eng.), the prophecy concerning Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, 
the MT reads, “You are little to be among the thousands [’alpe] ofjuidah,” meaning 
“to be counted among the communities having a thousand families or more.” But 
in Matthew 2:6 it is quoted thus: “You are very small among the leaders of Judah.” 
The Greek word for “leaders” ( hegemosin ) reflects a Hebrew ’ allupe instead of 
'alpe. This does not reflect the LXX, incidentally, for it supports the MT with 
chiliasin (“thousands”). Therefore it must come from some earlier, independent 
tradition. 

4. Psalm 2:9, which is addressed by God the Father to His messianic Son, says 
(according to the MT), “You shall smash them with an iron rod,” referring to hostile 
kings who will rebel against Him. This pointing of fro'em (“smash”) seems to be 
confirmed by the second half of the verse: “You will dash them to pieces like pot- 
tery.” On the other hand, the LXX reads poimaneis (“You will rule”), implying the 
vowel pointing tir'em. This is confirmed by the word for “rod,” which is sebet, 
the regular word for the staff of a shepherd or the scepter of a king. It is highly 
significant that this verse is quoted in Revelation 2:27: “He will rule [or ‘pasture’] 
them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Again, in 
Revelation 12:5 we read, “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule 


41 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

[poimainein] all the nations with an iron scepter.” In both passages the emphasis is 
not so much on destruction or smashing as it is on shepherding or governing as a 
ruler over all the earth. The probabilities are, then, that we should repoint the MT’s 
f rd'em as tir'em. This latter reading is the one followed by the Vulgate (reges) and 
the Syriac ( ter'e ’), for both mean “you will rule.” 

5. Psalm 22, the Psalm of the Crucifixion, reads in v.9 (according to the MT): 

“Trust thou [go/] in Yahweh; He will rescue him [or, ‘let Him rescue him’], deliver 
him [i.e., the psalmist in his suffering and humiliation], for He takes pleasure in 
him.” This verse involves a rather awkward mixing of second person (“trust thou”) 
and third person (“him”), referring to the same person in the same verse. But the 
LXX wording is “he trusted in the Lord; let Him deliver him.” This implies re- 
pointing gol as gal, the same consonants, but a different vowel. Not only is this 
supported by the Vulgate (speravit), but it is also supported by the Syriac (’ettekel). 
Most important of all, Matthew 27:43 makes it third person singular: “He trusts 
[ pepoithen ] in God. Let God rescue him.” Considerations of context, the early ver- 
sions, and the New Testament quotation all present a very good case for amending 
gol to gal. 6 

6. Psalm 90:2 in the MT reads, “Before the mountains were born or You did give 
birth [watrholel} to the earth or the world, . . . You are God.” But in almost all 
the early versions, the verb give birth is read as a passive (watf holal, “was given 
birth to ), thus making the second verb a passive, harmonizing with the first verb, 
“were born.” The LXX, Aquila, Symmachus, Jerome, and even the Aramaic 
Targum (which usually conforms to the MT) unite in making the second verb 
passive. There is even one early Hebrew manuscript from the Cario Genizah (Eel) 
that reads a passive instead of an active. We may, therefore, safely adopt this emen- 
dation and make it a passive — “were given birth to,” which suggests writhing in 
pain, like a woman in labor. 

B. The Canons of Textual Criticism 

After sampling the eleven classes of textual error just described, in summary 
fashion we will list the seven “canons” or procedural rules textual critics use to come 
to an intelligent decision about divergent readings. These canons are arranged in 
the order of their priority or relative value. 

Canon 1 . Generally speaking, the older reading is to be preferred over a reading 
found in later manuscripts. There may be, however, less reliable readings in as old 
a manuscript as lQIsa, simply because the latter was a rapidly made copy, in- 
tended for private use rather than for public worship or official instruction. But 
normally the older a manuscript is, the less likelihood there is of deviation from 
the reading of the autograph. 

Canon 2. The more difficult reading ( lectio difficilior) is to be preferred over the 
easier reading This results from the greater likelihood on the part of a copyist to 
simplify a difficult word or phrase in his Vorlage, rather than to make a simple 
reading more difficult. But it should of course be added that when the more dif- 
ficult reading seems to have resulted from confusion or inadvertence on the part of 
the scribe, this rule does not apply. The same is true if the reading is so dif ficult 
that it does not really make sense, or, again, if the more difficult reading expresses 
an idea or viewpoint quite contradictory to the sentiments expressed elsewhere 
in the book. 

Canon 3. The shorter reading is generally to be preferred over the longer one. 
The reason for this is that copyists are more inclined to amplify or insert additional 
material for the purpose of clarification or embellishment than they are to leave 


42 


INTRODUCTION 


out words already appearing in their Vorlage. But this rule does not apply if the 
shorter reading seems to result from haplography or homoeoteleuton, as described 
above. 

Canon 4. The reading that best explains all the variants is most likely the original 
one. An excellent example of this was discussed above in connection with Psalm 
22:16(17 Eng.), where we saw that a ka*u (“they have pierced”) misread as ha"ri 
(at a time when waw and yodh greatly resembled each other) most satisfactorily 
accounted for the MT reading; whereas it would be far less likely that “like the 
lion ’ would have been the original lying behind a karu, which makes perfect sense 
in the context. 

Canon 5. The reading with the widest geographical support is to be preferred 
over one that predominants only within a single region or a single manuscript 
family. Thus a reading attested by the LXX, the Old Latin, and the Coptic Egyptian 
versions does not have as much to commend it as one attested by the Vulgate and 
the LXX (outside of the Psalms, that is), or the LXX and the Samaritan. The reason 
for this is that both the Old Latin and the Coptic were translated originally from 
the LXX rather than from the Hebrew. For example, in Numbers 22:35 the 
Samaritan and the LXX agree on tismor t'dabber (“you will be careful to speak”), 
as against MT's simple fdabber (“you will speak”). Even though some LXX manu- 
scripts were found in the Qumran library, it is safe to say that the LXX and the 
Samaritan had very little influence on each other. Therefore if they unite on a 
reading divergent from that of the MT, it is quite possible they are correct. 

Canon 6. The reading that more closely conforms to the style, diction, or view- 
point of the author in the rest of the book is to be preferred over a reading that 
seems markedly divergent. Of course this criterion must be applied with caution, 
for the author may be capable of a wider range of viewpoints and sentiments than 
modern liberals think admissible. We must firmly resist any emendation that 
merely reflects our own personal preference or opinion on a largely subjec- 
tive basis. 

Canon 7. A reading that reflects no doctrinal bias on the part of the copyist him- 
self is to be preferred over one that betrays a partisan viewpoint. Thus we find in 
Isaiah 1:12 that the Masoretes have shied away from the alleged anthropomorph- 
ism of the MT’s “When you enter to appear [lera ’6[\ before Me, who has required 
this from your hand, to trample my courts?” The obvious reading of the unpointed 
text would be, not the abbreviated form of a medio-passive infinitive (lerao[ for 
theraoi), but rather the active infinitive lir n 'bl_ (“to behold”). The reason for reading 
it as medio-passive is a theological one. Since no man can ever see God, the prophet 
would not be foolish enough to forbid Israel to do something that the people could 
never do anyway. But the problem with the MT pointing is that “before” is normally 
written f’pdnay (“before me”) rather than the simple pdnay, which means “my face,” 
not “before.” These two factors lead to the conclusion that the MT has resorted 
to an antianthropomorphic device, the false pointing of lid ’oi as the passive in- 
finitive rather than the active. The Masoretes’ high view of God as a transcendent 
spirit made them reluctant to allow the figurative expression “to behold my face,” 
which was probably what Isaiah really intended to say. Yet it is quite possible that 
by Isaiah’s time this had become an idiomatic expression for coming to the temple 
for worship and prayer. The word parrim meant both “face” and “presence”; and 
since the presence of Yahweh rested over the ark of the covenant in the inner 
sanctum, the so-called table of shewbread was actually called in Hebrew “the table 
and the bread of the Presence” (sulhan w' leem pdnim). The twelve loaves were so 
designated because they were offered before the Presence of the Lord, concealed 


43 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

on the other side of the curtain separating the Holy Place from the innermost 
sanctum. 

C. Ground Rules for Competent Textual Correction 

Having gone through the general guidelines for choosing between alternative 
readings on the basis of the seven canons, we now come to a concluding summary 
that appears in Ernst Wurthwein’s excellent volume The Text of the Old Testament 
(New York: Macmillan, 1957), pp. 80-81 . Wurthwein is not an Evangelical scholar, 
but he does represent a very high level of German scholarship in the area of textual 
criticism; and his recommended procedures are beyond reproach — except per- 
haps on the part of critics who wish to alter the received text of Scripture in order 
to suit their own ideas of what it should have said. Here, then, is Wurthwein’s 
formula. 

1. Where the MT and the other witnesses present the same reading, and it is 
sensible and intelligent, then let it stand without tampering. (It is inadmissible to 
reject this reading and resort to conjecture, as so many have ventured to do.) 

2. Where there is a genuine deviation from the MT on the part of other wit- 
nesses, and both readings seem equally sensible, then the preference should clearly 
be given to the MT. 

3. Where the text of the MT is for some reason doubtful or virtually impossible 

whether from the standpoint of grammar or sense-in-context — and the reading 
offered by other witnesses offers a satisfactory sense, then the latter should be given 
careful consideration. This is especially true if it can be seen how the MT reading 
might have resulted through one of the familiar scribal errors (described above). 
But if, on the other hand, there is reason to believe that the ancient translator 
produced a clear reading only because he could not make out the meaning of the 
Hebrew text before him, and therefore guessed at what it might have intended to 
say, then we have a textual obscurity that can only be tentatively solved by re- 
sorting to conjecture. 

4. Where neither the MT nor the other witnesses offer a plausible reading, then 
conjecture is the only course left to the critic. But he must do his best to reconstruct 
a reading that is as close as possible to the corrupted words in the received text, 
taking full cognizance of the standard types of scribal error and the various al- 
ternative readings that may most easily have developed from this original 
wording — if such it was. 

5. In all his work with textual problems, the critic must pay due regard to the 
psychology of the scribe himself. How might he have fallen into this error, if 
error it was? How well does it conform to his habit of mind or procedure observable 
in the rest of the book? 

By means of this carefully worked-out formula, Wurthwein has devised a sound 
method of scientific objectivity and systematic procedure that serves to eliminate 
much of the reckless and ill-considered emendation foisted on the public as bona 
fide textual criticism. 


44 


The Pentateuch 


What solid evidence is there for the 
Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch? 

It is common in liberal or neoor- 
thodox circles to deny that Moses had 
anything to do with the composition of 
the Pentateuch. Most critics of that 
persuasion feel that the so-called Books 
of Moses were written by several dif- 
ferent, anonymous authors begin- 
ning in the ninth century and conclud- 
ing with the final portion, the “Priestly 
Code,” around 445 b.c. — -just in time 
for Ezra to read it aloud at the Feast of 
Tabernacles (cf. Neh. 8). Still other 
scholars, especially those of the form- 
critical school, feel that rather little of 
the Pentateuch was actually written 
down until the time of Ezra, even 
though some portions of it may have 
existed as oral tradition for several 
centuries previous — perhaps even to 
the period of Moses himself. In view of 
the general consensus among non- 
Evangelical scholars that all claims to 
Mosaic authorship are spurious, it is 
well for us to review at least briefly the 
solid and compelling evidence, both 
internal and external, that the entire 
Pentateuch is the authentic work of 
Moses, under the inspiration of God 
the Holy Spirit. 

Biblical Testimony to Mosaic Authorship 

The Pentateuch often refers to 
Moses as its author, beginning with 
Exodus 17:14: “And Yahweh said to 
Moses, ‘Write for me a memorial in a 


book . . . that I will utterly blot out the 
remembrance of Amalek.’” In Exodus 
24:4 we read, “And Moses wrote all the 
words of Yahweh.” In v.7 we are told, 
“And he took the book of the cove- 
nant, and read it in the hearing of the 
people.” Other references to Moses’ 
writing down the Pentateuch are 
found in Exodus 34:27, Numbers 
33:1-2, and Deuteronomy 31:9, the 
last of which says, “And Moses wrote 
this law and delivered it to the priests.” 
Two verses later it is made a standing 
requirement for the future that when 
“all Israel has come to appear before 
Yahweh, you shall read this law before 
all Israel in their hearing.” This pro- 
vision apparently comprises all of 
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and most 
of Deuteronomy (at least through 
chap. 30). 

Later on, after the death of Moses, 
the Lord gives these directions to 
Joshua, Moses’ successor: “This book 
of the Law shall not depart from your 
mouth, but you are to meditate in it 
day and night, in order that you may 
be careful to do according to all that is 
written in it” (Josh. 1:8). The denial of 
Mosaic authorship would mean that 
every one of the above-cited verses is 
false and unworthy of acceptance. 
Joshua 8:32-34 records that with the 
congregation of Israel stationed out- 
side the city of Shechem, on the slopes 
of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, 
Joshua read aloud from the Law of 
Moses inscribed on stones the passages 


45 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


in Leviticus and Deuteronomy refer- 
ring to the blessings and curses, as 
Moses earlier had done (cf. Deut. 27- 
28). If the Documentary Hypothesis is 
correct, then this account must also be 
rejected as a sheer fabrication. Other 
Old Testament references to the Mo- 
saic authorship of the Pentateuch 
are 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; 
Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 13:1; Daniel 
9:11-13; and Malachi 4:4. All these 
testimonies must also be rejected as to- 
tally in error. 

Christ and the apostles likewise gave 
unequivocal witness that Moses was the 
author of the Torah (Law). In John 
5:46-57, Jesus said, “If you believed 
Moses, you would believe me, for he 
wrote about me. But if you do not be- 
lieve his writings, how can you believe 
my words?” How indeed! Likewise, in 
John 7:19, Jesus said, “Did not Moses 
give you the Law? And yet none of you 
does the Law.” If Christ’s conf irmation 
of Moses as the real author of the Pen- 
tateuch is set aside — as it is by the 
modern critical theory — it inescapably 
follows that the authority of Christ 
Himself is denied. For if He was mis- 
taken about a factual, historical matter 
like this, then He might be mistaken 
about any other belief He held or doc- 
trines He taught. In Acts 3:22, Peter 
said to his countrymen, “Moses indeed 
said, ‘A Prophet shall the Lord God 
raise up to you"’ (cf. Deut. 18:15). Paul 
affirmed in Romans 10:5 that “Moses 
writes that the man who practices 
righteousness based on the law' will live 
by that righteousness.” But the JEDP 
theory of Wellhausen and the ra- 
tionalistic modern critics deny that 
Moses ever w'rote any of those things. 
This means that Christ and the apos- 
tles were totally mistaken in thinking 
that he did. Such an error as this, in 
matters of historical fact that can be 
verified, raises a serious question as to 
whether any of the theological teach- 
ing, dealing with metaphysical matters 
beyond our powers of verification, can 


be received as either trustworthy or au- 
thoritative. Thus we see that the ques- 
tion of Mosaic authenticity as the com- 
poser of the Pentateuch is a matter of 
utmost concern to the Christian. The 
authority of Christ Himself is involved 
in this issue. 

Internal Evidences of Mosaic Composition 

In addition to the direct testimonies 
of the Pentateuchal passages quoted 
above, we have the witness of the in- 
cidental allusions to contemporary 
events or current issues, to social or 
political conditions, or to matters of 
climate or geography. When all such 
factors are fairly and properly 
weighed, they lead to this conclusion: 
the author of these books and his 
readers must originally have lived in 
Egypt. Furthermore, these factors in- 
dicate that they had little or no 
firsthand acquaintance with Palestine 
and knew of it only by oral tradition 
from their forefathers. We cite the fol- 
lowing evidences. 

1. The climate and weather referred 
to in Exodus are typically Egyp- 
tian, not Palestinian (cf. the refer- 
ence to crop sequence in connec- 
tion with the plague of hail, Exod. 
9:31-32). 

2. The trees and animals referred to 
in Exodus through Deuteronomy 
are all indigenous to Egypt or the 
Sinai Peninsula, but none of them 
are peculiar to Palestine. The shit- 
tim or acacia tree is native to Egypt 
and the Sinai, but it is hardly 
found in Canaan except around 
the Dead Sea. This tree furnished 
the wood for much of the taberna- 
cle furniture. The skins for its 
outer covering were the hide of 
the tahas, or dugong, which is for- 
eign to Palestine but is found in 
the seas adjacent to Egypt and the 
Sinai. As for the lists of clean and 
unclean animals found in Le- 
viticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, 


46 


THE PENTATEUCH 


these include some that are pecu- 
liar to the Sinai Peninsula, such as 
the dison, or pygarg (Deut. 14:5); 
the ya‘ a nah, or ostrich (Lev. 
11:16); and the t e ’d, or wild an- 
telope (Deut. 14:5). It is difficult to 
imagine how a list of this sort 
could have been made up nine 
hundred years later, after the He- 
brew people had been living in a 
country not possessing any of 
these beasts. 

3. Even more conclusive are the geo- 
graphical references that betray 
the perspective of one who is per- 
sonally unfamiliar with Palestine 
but is well acquainted with Egypt. 
(1) In Genesis 13:10, where the 
author wishes to convey to his 
readers how verdant the vegeta- 
tion of the Jordan Valley was, he 
compares it to a well-known local- 
ity in the eastern part of the Egyp- 
tian Delta region, lying near 
Mendes, between Busiris and 
Tanis. He states that the Jordan 
Valley was like “the land of Egypt, 
as you go toward Zoar” (Egyp. 
T-;-r). Nothing could be plainer 
from this casual reference than 
that the author was writing for a 
readership unfamiliar with the 
appearance of regions in Palestine 
but personally acquainted with the 
scenery of Lower Egypt. Such 
could only have grown up in 
Egypt, and this fits in only with a 
Mosaic date of composition for the 
Book of Genesis. (2) The founding 
of Kirjath-arba (the pre-Israelite 
name of Hebron in southern 
Judah) is stated in Numbers 13:22 
to have taken place “seven years 
before Zoan in Egypt.” This 
clearly implies that Moses’ readers 
were well aware of the date of the 
founding of Zoan but unfamiliar 
with when Hebron — which be- 
came one of the foremost cities in 
Israel after the Gonquest — was 
first founded. (3) In Genesis 


33:18, there is a reference to 
“Salem, a city of Shechem in the 
land of Canaan.” To a people who 
had been living in Palestine for 
over seven centuries since the 
Conquest (according to the date 
given this passage by the Well- 
hausen school), it seems rather 
strange that they would have to be 
told that so outstanding a city as 
Shechem was located “in the land 
of Canaan.” But it would be per- 
fectly appropriate to a people who 
had not yet settled there — as was 
true of the congregation of Moses. 

4. The atmosphere and setting of 
the desert prevails all through the 
narrative, from Exodus 16 to the 
end of Deuteronomy (though 
there are some agricultural refer- 
ences looking forward to settled 
conditions in the land that they 
were soon to conquer). The prom- 
inence accorded to a large tent or 
tabernacle as the central place of 
worship and assembly would 
hardly be relevant to a readership 
living in Palestine for over seven 
centuries and familiar only with 
the temple of Solomon or Zerub- 
babel as their central sanctuary. 
The Wellhausen explanation for 
this, that the tabernacle was simply 
an artificial extrapolation from the 
temple, does not fit the facts; the 
temple was much different in size 
and furnishings from those de- 
scribed for the tabernacle in the 
Torah. But even this theory of 
historical fiction furnishes no ex- 
nation of why Ezra's contem- 
poraries would have been so in- 
terested in a mere tent as to devote 
to it so many chapters in Exodus 
(25-40) and to refer to it in near- 
ly three-fourths of Leviticus and 
very frequently also in Numbers 
and Deuteronomy. No other ex- 
ample can be found in all world 
literature for such absorbing at- 
tention to a structure that never 


47 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


really existed and that had no 
bearing on the generation for 
which it was written. 

5. There are many evidences of a 
technical, linguistic nature that 
could be adduced to support an 
Egyptian background for the text 
of the Torah. Detailed examples 
of this may be found in my Survey 
of Old Testament Introduction (pp. 
1 1 1 -14). Suffice it to say that a far 
greater number of Egyptian 
names and loan words are found 
in the Pentateuch than in any 
other section of Scripture. This is 
just what we would expect from an 
author who was brought up in 
Egypt, writing for a people who 
were reared in the same setting as 
he. 

6. If the Pentateuch was composed 
between the ninth and fifth cen- 
turies b.c., as the Documentary 
school maintains, and if it extrapo- 
lated the religious practices and 
political perspectives of the fifth 
and sixth centuries back to the 
times of Moses (by way of a pious 
fraud), it is reasonable to expect 
that this spurious document, con- 
cocted long after Jerusalem had 
been taken over as the capital of 
the Israelite kingdom, would 
surely have referred to Jerusa- 
lem by name on many occasions. 
It would certainly have included 
some prophecy of the future con- 
quest of that city and its coming 
status as the location of the per- 
manent temple of Yahweh. But a 
careful examination of the entire 
text of Genesis through Deuter- 
onomy comes up with the as- 
tonishing result that Jerusalem 
is never once mentioned by name. 
To be sure, Mount Moriah ap- 
pears in Genesis 22 as the location 
of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice 
of Isaac, but there is no suggestion 
that it was to be the future location 
of the temple. 


In Genesis 14 there is a refer- 
ence to Melchizedek as the “king 
of Salem” — not “Jeru-salem” — but 
again without any hint that it 
would later become the religious 
and political capital of the Hebrew 
Commonwealth. In Deuteronomy 
12:5-18 there are references to a 
“place that Yahweh your God shall 
choose from all your tribes, to es- 
tablish His name there for His 
dwelling.” While these references 
are general enough to include 
such places as Shiloh and Gibeon, 
where the tabernacle was kept for 
extended periods of time before 
the erection of Solomon’s temple, 
it is fair to assume that Deuter- 
onomy 12:5 was mainly intended 
as a prediction of the establish- 
ment of the Jerusalem temple. 
Yet it is almost impossible to ac- 
count for the failure of this al- 
legedly late and spurious work of 
Moses to mention Jerusalem by 
name, when there was every in- 
centive to do so. Only the supposi- 
tion that the Torah was genuinely 
Mosaic, or at least composed well 
before the capture of Jerusalem in 
1000 b.c., can account for its fail- 
ure to mention the city at all by 
name. 

7. In dating literary documents, it is 
of greatest importance to take 
stock of the key terms that are ap- 
parently current at the time the 
author did his work. In the case of 
a religious book, the titles by which 
God is characteristically referred 
to are of pivotal significance. Dur- 
ing the period between 850-450 
b.c., we find increasing promi- 
nence given to the title YHWH 
fba’di (most frequently rendered 
in English versions by “the Lord 
of Hosts”). This appellation, which 
lays particular stress on the om- 
nipotence of Israel’s Covenant- 
God, occurs about sixty-seven 
times in Isaiah (late eighth cen- 


48 


THE PENTATEUCH 


tury), eighty-three times in 
Jeremiah (late seventh and early 
sixth centuries), thirteen times in 
the two chapters of Haggai (late 
sixth century), and fifty-one times 
in the fourteen chapters of 
Zechariah (late sixth to early fifth 
century). These prophets cover 
nearly the whole span of time dur- 
ing which the Pentateuchal corpus 
was being composed by Messrs. 
J, E, D, and P; yet amazingly 
enough, the title “Yahweh of 
Hosts” is never once to be found in 
the entire Pentateuch. From the 
standpoint of the science of com- 
parative literature, this would be 
considered the strongest kind of 
evidence that the Torah was com- 
posed at a period when the title 
“Yahweh of Hosts” was not in 
use — therefore, all of it, even the 
so-called Priestly Code, must have 
been composed before the eighth 
century b.c. If this is a valid de- 
duction, then the entire Documen- 
tary Hypothesis must be alto- 
gether abandoned. 

8. If the Priestly Code portion of the 
Pentateuch was truly composed in 
the sixth and fifth centuries b.c., it 
would be expected that distinc- 
tively Levitical institutions and en- 
richments of public worship in- 
troduced from the time of David 
onward would find frequent men- 
tion in the Pentateuch. Such dis- 
tinctives would surely include the 
guilds of temple singers, who were 
divided into twenty-four courses 
by King David (1 Chron. 25) and 
were often referred to in the titles 
of the Psalms. Yet no organized 
guilds of Levitical singers are ever 
once referred to in the Torah. 

The order of scribes (soperim) 
should certainly have received 
mention as the great chief of 
scribes, Ezra himself, was finaliz- 
ing large portions of the Pen- 
tateuch in time for the 445 b.c. 


celebration of the Feast of 
Tabernacles — according to the 
Wellhausen hypothesis. But for 
some strange reason there is no 
reference whatever to the scribal 
order or function, nor any pro- 
phetic hint that there will some 
day be such a class of guardians of 
the sacred text. 

From the time of Solomon and 
onward, there was a very impor- 
tant class of temple servants 
known as the Nethinim (“those 
who have been given,” i.e., to the 
service of the Lord in the temple). 
The number of Nethinim (392) 
who joined the 42,000 returnees 
from Babylon in 538 b.c. is in- 
cluded in the statistics of Ezra 2:58 
and Nehemiah 7:60, along with 
the count of the Levites and 
priests. But there is no reference 
to them or prediction of them to 
be found in “Document P.” Very 
strange! 

From the time of David, “the 
sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 
23:1), liberal use was made of 
various musical instruments 
(stringed, wind, percussion — all 
three types) in connection with 
public worship before the Lord. 
Certainly a Mosaic sanction for 
this important feature of Levitical 
worship ought to have been in- 
cluded in the Torah if it had been 
composed as late as the tenth cen- 
tury or thereafter. But surprisingly 
enough, it fails to contain a single 
reference to musical accompani- 
ment in connection with taberna- 
cle worship. This is impossible to 
reconcile with a composition date 
in the fifth century b.c. It is be- 
yond debate that a professional 
priestly group such as the 
Documentarians describe would 
have had the strongest motivation 
for including such cherished in- 
stitutions as these among the ordi- 
nances of “Moses.” 


49 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


9. The Pentateuch, especially in 
Deuteronomy, contains several 
references to the future conquest 
of Canaan by the descendants of 
Abraham. The Deuteronomic 
speaker is filled with confidence 
that the Hebrew host will over- 
whelm all opposition within the 
land of Canaan, defeat every 
army, and storm every city they 
decide to attack. This is clearly re- 
flected in the repeated exhorta- 
tions to destroy every Canaanite 
temple or shrine with complete 
thoroughness (Deut. 7:5; 12:2-3; 
cf. Exod. 23:24; 34:13). 

Since every nation defends its 
religious shrines with the utmost 
resistance of which it is capable, 
the assumption that Israel will 
be able to destroy every pagan 
sanctuary throughout the land as- 
sumes the military supremacy of 
Yahweh’s people after their inva- 
sion of the land. At what other 
juncture in the career of the He- 
brew nation could such a confi- 
dence have been entertained ex- 
cept in the days of Moses and 
Joshua? Here again, internal evi- 
dence points very strongly to a 
Mosaic date of composition. Noth- 
ing could be more unrealistic than 
to suppose that Josiah back in 621 
b.c., when Judah was a tiny vassal 
state under the Assyrian Empire, 
could have expected to break 
down every idolatrous altar, de- 
stroy every pillar ( massebah ) and 
cultic tree (’ a serdh), and smash 
every temple structure to rubble 
throughout the length and 
breadth of Palestine. Or how 
could the struggling little colony 
of post-Exilic fifth-century Judea 
expect to make a clean sweep of 
every heathen shrine from Dan to 
Beer-sheba? 

The only conclusion to draw 
from these Pentateuchal com- 
mands to destroy all traces of 


idolatry is that it was within Israel’s 
military capabilities to carry out 
this program throughout the 
whole region. But nothing could 
have been more inappropriate in 
the time of Zechariah, Ezra, and 
Nehemiah than to contemplate 
such a thorough extirpation of 
idol worship throughout Palestine. 
For them it was a battle just to sur- 
vive, so repeated were their crop 
failures and so serious was the op- 
position of all the nations sur- 
rounding them. Neither “Docu- 
ment P” in the time of Ezra nor 
Deuteronomy in the days of Josiah 
could possibly be harmonized with 
such passages as these. 

10. Deuteronomy 13:2-11 provides 
the penalty of death by stoning for 
any idolater or false prophet, even 
for a brother, wife, or child. 
Verses 12-17 go on to say that 
even if it is an entire city that has 
turned to idolatry, every inhabi- 
tant within it is to be put to death, 
all houses are to be reduced to 
rubble and ashes, and all property 
is to be put under the ban. This is 
no visionary theory but a serious 
ordinance with inbuilt investiga- 
tive procedures, reflecting a pro- 
gram that is meant to be carried 
out within contemporary Israel. 
But as we examine the account of 
Judah’s religious situation in the 
seventh century b.c. (or, indeed, 
in the eighth century from the 
time of Ahaz on), we find that idol 
worship was tolerated and prac- 
ticed in almost every municipality 
throughout the kingdom — except 
during the reforms of Hezekiah 
and Josiah. This would have 
meant the destruction of every city 
and town throughout the realm, 
even including Jerusalem itself. 
No one devises laws that are com- 
pletely impossible to carry out in 
the light of contemporary condi- 
tions. The only period in Israel’s 


50 


THE PENTATEUCH 


history when such legislation 
could have been enacted and en- 
forced was back in the days of 
Moses and Joshua — or possibly in 
the time of David. (Already by 
Solomon’s time shrine worship on 
the "high places” was practiced.) 

Moses’ Qualifications for Authorship of the 
Pentateuch 

From all the biblical references to 
Moses’ background and training, it is 
apparent that he had just the right 
qualifications to compose just such a 
work as the Torah. 

1. He had a fine education as a prince 
reared in the Egyptian court (Acts 
7:22), in a land that was more liter- 
ate than any other country in the 
Fertile Crescent. Even the mirror 
handles and toothbrushes were 
adorned with hieroglyphic inscrip- 
tions, as well as the walls of every 
public building. 

2. From his Israelite ancestors, he 
must have received a knowledge of 
the oral law that was followed in 
Mesopotamia, where the patriarchs 
had come from. 

3. From his mother and blood rela- 
tions, Moses must have received a 
full knowledge of the experiences 
of the patriarchs, all the way from 
Adam to Joseph; and from this 
wealth of oral tradition, he would 
have been equipped with all the in- 
formation contained in Genesis, 
being under the sure guidance of 
the Holy Spirit as he composed the 
inspired text of the Torah. 

4. As a longtime resident of Egypt and 
also of the land of Midian in the 
Sinai, Moses would have acquired a 
personal knowledge of the cli- 
mate, agricultural practices, and geo- 
graphical peculiarities of both Egypt 
and the Sinai Peninsula, such as 
is obvious throughout the text of 
these four books (Exodus through 
Deuteronomy), which deal with the 


fifteenth-century world in the vi- 
cinity of the Red Sea and the Nile. 

5. As the divinely appointed founder 
of a new nation to be governed by 
the revealed law of God, Moses 
would have had every incentive to 
compose this monumental work, 
including Genesis, with its full ac- 
count of God’s gracious dealings 
with Israel’s ancestors before the 
migration of Jacob’s family to 
Egypt. And since this young nation 
was to be governed by the law of 
God rather than by some royal des- 
pot like the pagan nations around 
them, it was incumbent on Moses to 
compose (under God’s inspiration 
and guidance) a carefully detailed 
listing of all the laws God had given 
to guide His people in the ways of 
justice, godliness, and worship. 
Over the forty-year period of the 
wilderness wanderings, Moses had 
ample time and opportunity to lay 
out the entire system of civil and re- 
ligious law that God had revealed to 
him to serve as the constitution for 
the new theocratic commonwealth. 

Moses had, then, every incentive and 
every qualification to compose this re- 
markable production. 

The Basic Fallacy Underlying the 
Documentary Hypothesis 

The most serious of the false as- 
sumptions underlying the Documen- 
tary Hypothesis and the form-critical 
approach (the former assumes that no 
part of the Torah found in written 
form until the mid-ninth century b.c., 
the latter defers all writing down of the 
received Hebrew text of the Pentateuch 
until the time of the Exile) is that the 
Israelites waited until many centuries 
after the foundation of their com- 
monwealth before committing any 
part of it to written form. Such an as- 
sumption flies in the face of all the ar- 
chaeological discoveries of the last 
eighty years, that all of Israel’s 


51 


ENCYCLOPEDIA 

neighbors kept written records relat- 
ing to their history and religion from 
before the time of Moses. Perhaps the 
massive accumulation of inscriptions 
on stone, clay, and papyrus that have 
been exhumed in Mesopotamia and 
Egypt might have been questioned as 
necessarily proving the extensive use 
of writing in Palestine itself— until the 
1887 discovery of the archive of Pales- 
tinian clay tablets in Tell el-Amarna, 
Egypt, dating from about 1420 to 1380 
b.c. (the age of Moses and Joshua). 
This archive contained hundreds of 
tablets composed in Babylonian cunei- 
form (at that time the language of 
diplomatic correspondence in the Near 
East), which were communications 
to the Egyptian court from Palestin- 
ian officials and kings. Many of these 
letters contain reports of invasions 
and attacks by the Ha-bi-ru and the 
so-called SA.GAZ (the oral pronunci- 
ation of this logogram may well have 
been Habiru also) against the city-states 
of Canaan. 

Wellhausen himself chose to ignore 
this evidence almost completely after 
the earliest publication of these 
Amarna Tablets came out in the 1890s. 
He refused to come to terms with the 
implications of the now-established 
fact that Canaan even before the Is- 
raelite conquest was completed con- 
tained a highly literate civilization 
(even though they wrote in Babylonian 
rather than their own native tongue). 
The later proponents of the Docu- 
mentary Hypothesis have been equally 
closed-minded toward the implica- 
tions of these discoveries. 

The most serious blow of all, how- 
ever, came with the deciphering of the 
alphabetic inscriptions from Serabit 
el-Khadim in the region of Sinai tur- 
quoise mines operated by the Egyp- 
tians during the second millennium 
b.c. These consisted of a new set of 
alphabetic symbols resembling Egyp- 
tian hieroglyphs but written in a dialect 
of Canaanite closely resembling He- 


OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

brew. They contained records of min- 
ing quotas and dedicatory inscriptions 
to the Phoenician goddess Baalat (who 
was apparently equated with the Egyp- 
tian Hathor). The irregular style of 
execution precludes all possibility of 
attributing these writings to a select 
group of professional scribes. There is 
only one possible conclusion to draw 
from this body of inscriptions (pub- 
lished by W.F. Albright in The Proto- 
Sinaitic Inscriptions and Their Decipher- 
ment [Cambridge: Harvard University, 
1966]): Already back in the seven- 
teenth or sixteenth centuries b.c., even 
the lowest social strata of the Canaanite 
population, slave-miners who labored 
under Egyptian foremen, were well 
able to read and write in their own lan- 
guage. 

A third important discovery was the 
library of clay tablets discovered in the 
North Syrian site of Ras es-Shamra, 
anciently known as Ugarit, in which 
were many hundreds of tablets written 
around 1400 b.c. in an alphabetic 
cuneiform dialect of Canaanite, closely 
related to Hebrew. Along with busi- 
ness letters and government docu- 
ments (some of which were written in 
Babylonian cuneiform), these tablets 
contained a great deal of religious lit- 
erature. They related the loves and 
wars and exciting adventures of vari- 
ous deities of the Canaanite pantheon, 
such as El, Anath, Baal, Asherat, Mot, 
and many others, composed in a poetic 
form resembling parallelistic Hebrew 
poetry as found in the Pentateuch and 
in the Psalms of David. Here again we 
have indisputable proof that the He- 
brew conquerors under Joshua, having 
emigrated from a highly literate cul- 
ture down in Egypt, came into another 
civilization that made liberal use of 
writing. Furthermore, the high per- 
centage of religious literature found at 
both Ras Shamra and Serabit el- 
Khadim utterly negate the supposition 
that, of all the ancient Near Eastern 
peoples, only the Hebrews did not con- 


52 


THE PENTATEUCH 


trive to put their religious records into 
written form until a thousand years 
later. Only the most unalterable form 
of bias in the minds of liberal scholars 
can account for their stubborn 
avoidance of the overwhelming mass 
of objective data that now support the 
proposition that Moses could have 
written, and in all probability did write, 
the books ascribed to him. 

An even more fundamental fallacy 
underlies the modern Documentary 
approach, not only in regard to the au- 
thorship of the Pentateuch, but also to 
the composition of Isaiah 40-66 as an 
authentic work of the eighth-century 
Isaiah himself and the sixth-century 
date for the Book of Daniel. Basic to all 
these rationalist theories about the late 
and spurious nature of the composi- 
tion of these Old Testament books is 
one firmly held assumption: the 
categorical impossibility of successful 
predictive prophecy. It is taken for 
granted that there is no authentic di- 
vine revelation to be found in Scrip- 
ture and that all apparently fulfilled 
prophecies were really the result of 
pious fraud. In other words, the pre- 
dictions were not written down until 
they had already been fulfilled — or 
were 1 obviously about to be fulfilled. 
The result is a logical fallacy known as 
petitio principii, or reasoning in a circle. 
That is to say, the Bible offers tes- 
timony of the existence of a personal, 
miracle-working God, who revealed 
His future purposes to chosen 
prophets for the guidance and en- 
couragement of His people. Through 
the abundance of fulfilled predictions, 
the Scripture furnishes the most com- 
pelling evidence of the supernatural, 
as exhibited by a personal God who 
cares for His people enough to reveal 
to them His will for their salvation. But 
the rationalist approaches all these 
evidences with a completely closed 
mind, assuming that there is no such 
thing as the supernatural and that ful- 
filled prophecy is per se impossible. 


With this kind of bias, it is impossible 
to give honest consideration to evi- 
dence pertaining directly to the matter 
under investigation. 

After a careful study of the history 
of the rise of modern higher criticism 
as practiced by the Documentarians 
and the form-criticism school, this 
writer is convinced that the basic rea- 
son for the refusal to face up to objec- 
tive archaeological evidence hostile to 
the antisupernaturalist theories of the 
critics must be found in a self- 
defensive mentality that is essentially 
subjective. Thus it becomes absolutely 
essential for Documentarians to assign 
predictions of the Babylonian captivity 
and subsequent restoration (such as 
are found in Lev. 26 and Deut. 28) to a 
time after these events had already 
taken place. This is the real 
philosophical basis for assigning such 
portions (included in the “Priestly 
Code” or “Deuteronomic school”) to 
the fifth century b.c., a thousand years 
later than the purported time of au- 
thorship. For, obviously, no mortal can 
successfully predict what lies even a 
few years in the future. 

Since a fifteenth-century Moses 
would have to have foreseen what was 
going to happen in 587 and 537 b.c. in 
order to compose such chapters as 
these, he could never have composed 
them. But the Pentateuch says that 
Moses merely wrote down what al- 
mighty God revealed to him, rather 
than the product of his own unaided 
prophetic foresight. Hence, there is 
absolutely no logical difficulty in sup- 
posing that he could have predicted, 
under divine inspiration, events that 
far in the future — or that Isaiah in the 
early seventh century could have 
foreknown the Babylonian captivity 
and the subsequent return to Judah, or 
that Daniel could have predicted the 
major events of history between his 
own day (530 b.c.) and the coming of 
Antiochus Epiphanes in 170 b.c. In 
each case the prophecy comes from 


53 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


God, the Lord of history, rather than 
from man; so there is no logical reason 
why God should be ignorant of the fu- 
ture that He Himself brings to pass. 

Furthermore, the prophetic horizon 
of Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27 in actuality 
goes far beyond the Maccabean date 
assigned to it by rationalist scholars, for 
it pinpoints a.d. 27 as the exact year 
of Christ’s appearing (Dan. 9:25-26). 
The same is true of the Deuteronomy 
28:68 prediction of the aftermath of 
the Fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 and of 
the Isaiah 13:19-20 prediction of the 
total and permanent desolation of Baby- 
lon, which did not take place until after 
the Muslim conquest in the seventh cen- 


tury a.d. It is hopeless to attempt to 
account for such late fulfillments as 
these by alleging that the books that 
contained them were not written until 
after the predictions had actually come 
to pass. Thus we see that this guiding 
principle, which underlies the entire 
fabric of the Documentary Hypothesis, 
cannot be successfully maintained on 
objective or scientific grounds. It 
should, therefore, be abandoned in all 
our institutions of higher learning in 
which it is still being taught. 

(As for the passages that are al- 
legedly non-Mosaic on the basis of 
internal evidence, see the article on 
Exod. 6:26-27.) 


54 


Genesis 


How can Genesis 1 be reconciled with 
theistic evolution? 

In dealing with this question, we 
must carefully define our terms, for 
“evolution” is used in various senses by 
various people. We must distinguish 
between evolution as a philosophy and 
evolution as a descriptive mechanism 
for the development of species from 
the more primitive to the “higher” or 
more complex stages in the course of 
geological history. Furthermore, we 
must establish what is meant by theistic 
evolution. Then we will be in a better 
position to deal with its relationship to 
the creationism of Genesis 1. 

Evolution as a Philosophy 

Evolution as a philosophy seeks to 
explain the physical — and especially 
the biological — universe as a self- 
directed development from primeval 
matter, the origin of which is unknown 
but which may be regarded as eternally 
existing without ever having had a be- 
ginning. Philosophical evolution rules 
out any direction or intervention by a 
personal God and casts doubt on the 
existence of even an impersonal 
Higher Power. All reality is governed 
by unchangeable physical laws, and ul- 
timately it is the product of mere 
chance. There is no reason for exis- 
tence nor a real purpose for life. Man 
has to operate as an end in himself. He 
is his own ultimate lawgiver and has no 
moral accountability except to human 


society. The basis of law and ethics is 
basically utilitarian — that which pro- 
duces the greatest good for the 
greatest number. 

Not all these positions were ad- 
vanced by Charles Darwin himself in 
his 1859 classic The Origin of Species. 
And yet the consistent atheism of 
philosophic evolution was a position he 
would not espouse, for he believed that 
a creating God was logically necessary 
to explain the prior existence of the 
original primordial ooze out of which 
the earliest forms of life emerged. It 
would be more accurate to call him a 
deist rather than an atheist, even 
though his system was taken over by 
those who denied the existence of God. 
But it should be pointed out that con- 
sistent atheism, which represents itself 
to be the most rational and logical of all 
approaches to reality, is in actuality 
completely self-defeating and incapa- 
ble of logical defense. That is to say, if 
indeed all matter has combined by mere 
chance, unguided by any Higher 
Power or Transcendental Intelligence, 
then it necessarily follows that the 
molecules of the human brain are also 
the product of mere chance. In other 
words, we think the way we do simply 
because the atoms and molecules of 
our brain tissue happen to have com- 
bined in the way they have, totally 
without transcendental guidance or 
control. So then even the philosophies 
of men, their systems of logic, and all 
their approaches to reality are the re- 


55 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


suit of mere fortuity. There is no abso- 
lute validity to any argument advanced 
by the atheist against the position of 
theism. 

On the basis of his own presupposi- 
tions, the atheist completely cancels 
himself out, for on his own premises his 
arguments are without any absolute 
validity. By his own confession he 
thinks the way he does simply because 
because the atoms in his brain happen 
to combine the way they do. If this is so, 
he cannot honestly say that his view is 
any more valid than the contrary view 
of his opponent. His basic postulates 
are self-contradictory and self-defeat- 
ing; for when he asserts that there 
are no absolutes, he thereby is assert- 
ing a very dogmatic absolute. Nor can 
he logically disprove the existence 
of God without resorting to a logic 
that depends on the existence of God 
for its validity. Apart from such a 
transcendent guarantor of the validity 
of logic, any attempts at logic or ar- 
gumentation are simply manifestations 
of the behavior of the collocation of 
molecules that make up the thinker’s 
brain. 

Evolution as a Descriptive Mechanism 

Evolution as a descriptive mech- 
anism refers to that process by which 
less-advanced forms of life develop 
into higher forms of greater com- 
plexity. This is thought to be brought 
about by some sort of inner dynamic 
that, without any outside control 
or interference, operates according 
to its own pattern. In Darwin’s day 
it was believed that this development 
resulted from the accumulation of 
chance characteristics and the reten- 
tion of slight variations that arose dur- 
ing the earlier stages of the species’ 
career and were genetically handed 
down to succeeding generations. 

Since Darwin’s time, however, this 
formulation of evolution as a mech- 
anistic process, governed by the prin- 
ciple of the “survival of the fittest,” 


has, for a variety of reasons, lost sup- 
port in the twentieth century. G.J. 
Mendel’s experiments in plant genetics 
demonstrated quite conclusively that 
the range of variation possible within a 
species was strictly limited and offered 
no possibility of development into a 
new and different species. After a 
large number of experiments as to the 
inheritability of acquired characteris- 
tics, it was finally determined by 
geneticists at the close of the century 
that there was absolutely no transmis- 
sion of acquired traits because there 
was no way of coding them into the 
genes of the parent who developed 
those traits (cf. Robert E.D. Clark, 
Darwin, Before and After [Chicago: 
Moody, 1967]). 

As for the continual series of tran- 
sitional species that the Darwinian 
theory posited to mark the ascent 
from “lower” to “higher” orders on the 
ladder of biological development, the 
most extensive research possible has 
finally led scientists to the conclusion 
that there never were such “missing 
links.” Thus Austin H. Clark ( The New 
Evolution [New Haven: Yale, 1930], p. 
189) confessed: “If we are willing to 
accept the facts, we must believe that 
there never were such intermediates, 
or in other words, that these major 
groups have from the very first borne 
the same relationship to each other 
that they bear today.” Similarly, G.G. 
Simpson concluded that each of the 
thirty-two known orders of mammals 
appeared quite suddenly in the 
paleontological record. “The earliest 
and most primitive known members of 
every order already have the basic or- 
dinal characters, and in no case is an 
approximately continuous sequence 
from one order to another known” 
(Tempo and Mode in Evolution [New 
York: Columbia, 1944], p. 106). 

Therefore, it was necessary for 
Clark and Simpson to propose a com- 
pletely non-Darwinian type of “evolu- 
tion,” which they called the “quantum 


56 


GENESIS 


theory” or “emergent evolution.” It 
declares that dramatically new forms 
arise by mere chance, or else by some 
sort of creative response to new en- 
vironmental factors. No suggestion 
was offered as to the origin for this 
capacity for “creative response.” From 
the perspective of Darwinianism, this 
could hardly be considered evolution 
at all. As Carl F.H. Henry observed: 
“Supposition of abrupt emergence 
falls outside the Field of scientific 
analysis just as fully as the appeal to 
supernatural creative forces” (R. Mix- 
ter, ed., Evolution and Christian Thought 
Today [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1959], p. 211). 

As for the developmental series cus- 
tomarily exhibited in textbooks and 
museums to show how evolution 
worked with horses and men from the 
earliest stages of Cenozoic until 
modern times, it should be understood 
that they prove absolutely nothing 
about the mechanism that engineered 
this development. A continuity of basic 
design furnishes no evidence whatever 
that any “lower” species phased into 
the next “higher” species by any sort of 
internal dynamic, as evolution de- 
mands. For if the museum visitor were 
to go to another part of that museum 
of science and industry, he would find 
a completely analogous series of au- 
tomobiles, commencing with 1900 and 
extending up until the present decade. 
Stage by stage, phase by phase, he 
could trace the development of the 
Ford from its earliest Model T pro- 
totype to the large and luxurious LTD 
of the 1970s. Everyone knows that 
there was a continuity of basic design 
that altered in definite stages, some- 
times with dramatically new features. 
But he would also be aware that it was 
the engineers at the Ford Motor 
Company plants who designed these 
changes and implemented them 
through craftsmen who followed their 
blueprints. The ascent from the 
eohippus to the modern racing horse 


can be accounted for in exactly the 
same way — except that in this case the 
architect and engineer was the Creator 
Himself. 

Theistic Evolution 

Theistic evolution posits the exis- 
tence of God as Creator of all the ma- 
terial substance of the universe and 
Designer of all the processes to be fol- 
lowed by the various botanical and 
zoological orders in the development 
of His master plan. Unlike the 
philosophical evolutionist, the theistic 
evolutionist insists that matter was not 
eternal but was created by God out of 
nothing and was controlled in its de- 
velopment by the plan He had devised. 
In other words, the whole mechanism 
of the evolutionary process was and is 
devised and controlled by God rather 
than by some mysterious and unac- 
countable force for which there is no 
explanation. 

As we weigh the question of whether 
theistic evolution can be reconciled 
with Genesis 1 , we have to analyze very 
carefully whether we are dealing with a 
deistic or semi-deistic concept of a God 
who simply sets up the entire system, 
programming it in advance like some 
master computer, and then retires to 
the sidelines to watch the cosmic 
mechanism work itself out. Such a God 
is beyond the reach of prayer and takes 
no active, continuing interest in the 
needs of His creatures. There is no 
communication with Him and no sal- 
vation from Him; all is locked up in the 
framework of a rigid determinism. 

Or else we may be dealing with a 
theistic evolution that allows for prayer 
and personal relationships between 
man and God, but which conceives of 
Him as bringing about the ascending 
biological orders by some kind of evo- 
lutionary mechanism that finds its 
dynamism and direction within itself. 
In view of the flimsy basis in scientific 
data for evolution as propounded by 
Darwin and its virtual rejection by 


57 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


“emergent” evolutionists (for these two 
bear as close a resemblance to each 
other as American democracy and the 
“democracy” of Iron Curtain nations 
today), there seems to be very lit- 
tle ground for even a scientifically 
minded t heist to hang on to evolu- 
tionism at all. But if he accepts the 
implications of the integrity of spe- 
cies according to Mendelian limits, 
it could perhaps be argued that he 
keeps faith with the successive stages of 
creation of plant and animal orders 
and genera and species ‘‘after its kind,” 
as emphasized in Genesis 1:11-12,21. 
If he understands the six creative days 
as intended by the Author to teach a 
succession of definite stages in the or- 
derly development of the biological 
world up until the creation of man, 
then we should concede that this is re- 
concilable with the basic intent of that 
chapter. 

All this, of course, depends on 
whether the theistic evolutionist ac- 
cepts Adam and Eve as literal, histori- 
cal, created individuals. Many of them 
do not, but they conceive of Homo sa- 
piens as gradually developing from 
subhuman hominids and then finally 
developing a consciousness of God— at 
which moment, whenever it was, the 
ape-man became “Adam.” Such, for 
example, was the view of Lecomte de 
Noiiy in Human Destiny (New York: 
Longmans, Green & Co., 1947), who 
suggested that perhaps around 30,000 
b.c. the Cro-Magnon became truly 
man by a sort of spiritual mutation that 
conferred on him the capacity of re- 
sponsible moral choice. This type of 
approach can hardly be reconciled 
with the presentation of Adam and 
Eve as historical individuals with per- 
sonal emotions and responses such as 
appears in Genesis 2 and 3 (and as cer- 
tified by 1 Tim. 2:13-14). Any su- 
prahistorical interpretation of Adam, 
such as is espoused by Neoorthodoxy, 
is definitely irreconcilable with Holy 
Scripture and the Evangelical faith. 


Helpful Discussions of This General Topic 

Anderson, J.K., and Coffin, H.G. Fossils in 
Focus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977. 
Lammerts, W.E., ed. Why Not Creation? Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1970. 

Morris, H.M. The Twilight of Evolution. Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1963. 

Newman, R.C., and Eckelmann, H.J. Genesis 
One amt the Origin of the Earth. Downers Grove, 
III.: InterVarsity, 1977. 

Young, E.J. Studies in Genesis One. Philadelphia: 
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973. 

How can Genesis 1 be reconciled with the 
immense periods of time indicated by fos- 
sil strata? 

One of the most frequently argued 
objections to the trustworthiness of 
Scripture is found in the apparent dis- 
crepancy between the account of crea- 
tion given in Genesis 1 and the sup- 
posed evidence from the fossils and 
fissionable minerals in the geological 
strata that indicate Earth is billions of 
years old. Yet Genesis 1 allegedly 
teaches that creation took place in six 
twenty-four-hour days, at the end of 
which man was already on the earth. 
But this conflict between Genesis 1 and 
the factual data of science (in con- 
tradistinction to the theories of some 
scientists who draw inferences from 
their data that are capable of quite 
another interpretation by those equally 
proficient in geology) is only apparent, 
not real. 

To be sure, if we were to understand 
Genesis 1 in a completely literal 
fashion — which some suppose to be 
the only proper principle of interpre- 
tation if the Bible is truly inerrant and 
completely trustworthy — then there 
would be no possibility of reconcil- 
iation between modern scientific 
theory and the Genesis account. But a 
true and proper belief in the inerrancy 
of Scripture involves neither a literal 
nor a figurative rule of interpretation. 
What it does require is a belief in what- 
ever the biblical author (human and 
divine) actually meant by the words he 
used. 


58 


GENESIS 


An absolute literalism would, for 
example, commit us to the proposition 
that in Matthew 19:24 (and parallel 
passages) Christ actually meant to 
teach that a camel could go through 
the eye of a needle. But it is abun- 
dantly clear that Christ was simply 
using the familiar rhetorical figure of 
hyperbole in order to emphasize how 
difficult it is spiritually for a rich man 
(because of his pride in his material 
wealth) to come to repentance and sav- 
ing faith in God. To construe that pas- 
sage literally would amount to blatant 
heresy, or at least a perversity that has 
nothing to do with orthodoxy. Or 
again, when Jesus said to the multitude 
that challenged Him to work some 
miracle, “Destroy this temple, and in 
three days I will raise it up” (John 
2:19), they grievously erred when they 
interpreted His remarks literally. John 
2:21 goes on to explain that Jesus did 
not mean this prediction literally but 
spiritually: “But He was speaking 
about the temple of His body. There- 
fore when He was raised from the 
dead, His disciples remembered that 
He said this, and they believed the 
Scripture.” In this case, then, literal in- 
terpretation was dead wrong because 
that was not what Jesus meant by the 
language He used; He was actually re- 
ferring to the far greater miracle of 
His bodily resurrection. 

It thus becomes clear in this present 
case, as we study the text of Genesis 1, 
that we must not short-circuit our re- 
sponsibility of careful exegesis in order 
to ascertain as clearly as possible what 
the divine author meant by the lan- 
guage His inspired prophet (in this 
case probably Moses) was guided to 
employ. Is the true purpose of Genesis 
1 to teach that all creation began just 
six twenty-four-hour days before 
Adam was “born”? Or is this just a mis- 
taken inference that overlooks other 
biblical data having a direct bearing on 
this passage? To answer this question 
we must take careful note of what is 


said in Genesis 1:27 concerning the 
creation of man as the closing act of 
the sixth creative day. There it is stated 
that on that sixth day (apparently to- 
ward the end of the day, after all the 
animals had been fashioned and placed 
on the earth — therefore not long be- 
fore sundown at the end of that same 
day), “God created man in His own 
image; He created them male and 
female .” This can only mean that Eve 
was created in the closing hour of Day 
Six, along with Adam. 

As we turn to Genesis 2, however, we 
find that a considerable interval of 
time must have intervened between 
the creation of Adam and the creation 
of Eve. In 2:15 we are told that 
Yahweh Elohim (i.e., the Lord God) 
put Adam in the Garden of Eden as 
the ideal environment for his de- 
velopment, and there he was to culti- 
vate and keep the enormous park, with 
all its goodly trees, abundant fruit 
crop, and four mighty rivers that 
flowed from Eden to other regions of 
the Near East. In 2:18 we read, “Then 
the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for 
the man to be alone; I will make him a 
helper suitable for him.’” This state- 
ment clearly implies that Adam had 
been diligently occupied in his respon- 
sible task of pruning, harvesting fruit, 
and keeping the ground free of brush 
and undergrowth for a long enough 
period to lose his initial excitement and 
sense of thrill at this wonderful occu- 
pation in the beautiful paradise of 
Eden. He had begun to feel a certain 
lonesomeness and inward dissatisfac- 
tion. 

In order to compensate for this 
lonesomeness, God then gave Adam a 
major assignment in natural history. 
He was to classify every species of ani- 
mal and bird found in the preserve. 
With its five mighty rivers and broad 
expanse, the garden must have had 
hundreds of species of mammal, rep- 
tile, insect, and bird, to say nothing of 
the flying insects that also are indicated 


59 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


by the basic Hebrew term 'dp (“bird”) 
(2:19). It took the Swedish scientist 
Linnaeus several decades to classify all 
the species known to European scien- 
tists in the eighteenth century. Doubt- 
less there were considerably more by 
that time than in Adam’s day; and, of 
course, the range of fauna in Eden 
may have been more limited than 
those available to Linnaeus. But at the 
same time it must have taken a good 
deal of study for Adam to examine 
each specimen and decide on an ap- 
propriate name for it, especially in 
view of the fact that he had absolutely 
no human tradition behind him, so far 
as nomenclature was concerned. It 
must have required some years, or, at 
the very least, a considerable number 
of months for him to complete this 
comprehensive inventory of all the 
birds, beasts, and insects that popu- 
lated the Garden of Eden. 

Finally, after this assignment with all 
its absorbing interest had been com- 
pleted, Adam felt a renewed sense of 
emptiness. Genesis 2:20 ends with the 
words “but for Adam no suitable 
helper was found.” After this long and 
unsatisfying experience as a lonely 
bachelor, God saw that Adam was 
emotionally prepared for a wife — a 
“suitable helper.” God, therefore, sub- 
jected him to a deep sleep, removed 
from his body the bone that was closest 
to his heart, and from that physical 
core of man fashioned the first 
woman. Finally God presented woman 
to Adam in all her fresh, unspoiled 
beauty, and Adam was ecstatic with 

j°y- 

As we have compared Scripture with 
Scripture (Gen. 1:27 with 2:15-22), it 
has become very apparent that Genesis 
1 was never intended to teach that the 
sixth creative day, when Adam and 
Eve were both created, lasted a mere 
twenty-four hours. In view of the long 
interval of time between these two, it 
would seem to border on sheer irra- 
tionality to insist that all of Adam’s ex- 


periences in Genesis 2:15-22 could 
have been crowded into the last hour 
or two of a literal twenty-four-hour 
day. The only reasonable conclusion to 
draw is that the purpose of Genesis 1 is 
not to tell how fast God performed His 
work of creation (though, of course, 
some of His acts, such as the creation 
of light on the first day, must have 
been instantaneous). Rather, its true 
purpose was to reveal that the Lord 
God who had revealed Himself to the 
Hebrew race and entered into per- 
sonal covenant relationship with them 
was indeed the only true God, the Cre- 
ator of all things that are. This stood in 
direct opposition to the religious no- 
tions of the heathen around them, who 
assumed the emergence of a pantheon 
of gods in successive stages out of 
preexistent matter of unknown origin, 
actuated by forces for which there was 
no accounting. 

Genesis 1 is a sublime manifesto, to- 
tally rejecting all the cosmogonies of 
the pagan cultures of the ancient world 
as nothing but baseless superstition. 
The Lord God Almighty existed be- 
fore all matter, and by His own word 
of command He brought the entire 
physical universe into existence, gov- 
erning all the great forces of wind, 
rain, sun, and sea according to His 
sovereign will. This stood in stark con- 
trast to the clashing, quarreling, capri- 
cious little deities and godlets spawned 
by the corrupt imagination of the hea- 
then. The message and purpose of 
Genesis 1 is the revelation of the one 
true God who created all things out of 
nothing and ever keeps the universe 
under His sovereign control. 

The second major aspect of Genesis 
1 is the revelation that God brought 
forth His creation in an orderly and 
systematic manner. There were six 
major stages in this work of formation, 
and these stages are represented by 
successive days of a week. In this con- 
nection it is important to observe that 
none of the six creative days bears a 


60 


GENESIS 


definite article in the Hebrew text; the 
translations “ the first day,” “the second 
day,” etc., are in error. The Hebrew 
says, “And the evening took place, and 
the morning took place, day one” ( 1 :5). 
Hebrew expresses “the first day” by 
hayyom hari’sdn, but this text says simply 
ydm ’ehad (“day one”). Again, in v.8 we 
read not hayyom hasseni (“the second 
day”) but ydm sent ("a second day”). In 
Hebrew prose of this genre, the defimite 
article was generally used where the 
noun was intended to be definite; only 
in poetic style could it be omitted. The 
same is true with the rest of the six 
days; they all lack the definite article. 
Thus they are well adapted to a sequen- 
tial pattern, rather than to strictly de- 
limited units of time. 

Genesis 1 :2-5 thus sets forth the first 
stage of creation: the formation of 
light. This must have meant primarily 
the light of the sun and the other 
heavenly bodies. Sunlight is a neces- 
sary precondition to the development 
of plant life and animal life, generally 
speaking (though there are some sub- 
terranean forms of life that manage to 
do without it). 

Genesis 1:6-8 presents the second 
stage: the formation of an “expanse” 
(raqia') that separated between mois- 
ture in suspension in the sky and 
moisture condensed enough to remain 
on the earth’s surface. The term raqia' 
does not mean a beaten-out metal 
canopy, as some writers have al- 
leged — no ancient culture ever taught 
such a notion in its concept of the 
sky — but simply means “a stretched- 
out expanse.” This is quite evident 
from Isaiah 42:5, where the cognate 
verb raqa' is used: “Thus says the 
God Yabweh, the Creator of the heav- 
ens, and the one who stretched them 
out [from the verb nalah , ‘to extend’ 
curtains or tent cords], the one who 
extended [ roqa '] the earth and that 
which it produces [the noun se’ , ‘saim 
refers always to plants and animals].” 
Obviously raqa' could not here mean 


“beat out,” “stamp out” (though it is 
often used that way in connection with 
metal working); the parallelism with 
natah (noted above) proves that here it 
has the force of extend or expand. 
Therefore, the noun raqia' can mean 
only “expanse,” without any connota- 
tion of a hard metal plate. 

Genesis 1:9-13 relates the third 
stage in God’s creative work, the reced- 
ing of the waters of the oceans, seas, 
and lakes to a lower altitude than the 
masses of land that emerged above 
them and thus were allowed to become 
dry. Doubtless the gradual cooling of 
the planet Earth led to the condensa- 
tion of water necessary to bring about 
this result; seismic pressures produc- 
ing mountains and hills doubtless con- 
tributed further to this separation be- 
tween land and sea. Once this dry land 
( hayyabbasah ) appeared, it became pos- 
sible for plant life and trees to spring 
up on the earth’s surface, aided by 
photosynthesis from the still be- 
clouded sky. 

Genesis 1:14-19 reveals that in the 
fourth creative stage God parted the 
cloud cover enough for .direct sunlight 
to fall on the earth and for accurate 
observation of the movements of the 
sun, moon, and stars to take place. 
Verse 16 should not be understood as 
indicating the creation of the heavenly 
bodies for the first time on the fourth 
creative day; rather it informs us that 
the sun, moon, and stars created on 
Day One as the source of light had 
been placed in their appointed places 
by God with a view to their eventually 
functioning as indicators of time 
(“signs, seasons, days, years”) to terres- 
trial observers. The Hebrew verb 
wayya'as in v. 16 should better be ren- 
dered “Now [God] had made the two 
great luminaries, etc.,” rather than as 
simple past tense, “[God] made .” (He- 
brew has no special form for the 
pluperfect tense but uses the perfect 
tense, or the conversive imperfect as 
here, to express either the English past 


61 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


or the English pluperfect, depending 
on the context.) 

Genesis 1:20-23 relates that on the 
fifth creative day God fully developed 
marine life, freshwater life, and intro- 
duced flying creatures (whether in- 
sects, lizards, or winged birds). It is 
interesting to observe that the fossil- 
bearing strata of the Paleozoic era con- 
tain the first evidence of invertebrate 
animal life with startling suddenness in 
the Cambrian period. There is no in- 
dication in the pre-Cambrian strata 
of how the five thousand species of 
marine and terrestrial animal life of 
the Paleozoic era may have developed, 
for there is no record of them what- 
ever prior to the Cambrian levels (cf. 
D. Dewar, “The Earliest Known Ani- 
mals,” Journal of the Transactions of the 
Victoria Institute 80 [1948]: 22-29). 

Genesis 1:24-26 records that in the 
sixth and final stage of the creative 
process, God brought forth all the land 
animals after their various species 
(i Vminah in v.24 and Vminehu in v.25 
mean “according to its kind,” whether 
the antecedent was male or female in 
grammatical gender), culminating fi- 
nally in the creation of man, as dis- 
cussed more extensively above. 

In this connection, a comment is in 
order concerning the recurring for- 
mula at the end of each creative day: 
“And it was/became evening, and it 
became/was morning, a second day” 
(or whatever ordinal it might be). The 
reason for this closing statement seems 
to have been twofold. First, it was 
necessary to make clear whether the 
symbolic unit involved was a mere 
sunrise-to-sundown day, or whether it 
was a twenty-four-hour day. The term 
yom (“day”) could mean either. In fact, 
the first time yom occurs is in v.5: “And 
He called the light day, and the dark- 
ness He called night.” Therefore, it 
was necessary to show that each of the 
creative days was symbolized by a 
complete twenty-four-hour cycle, be- 
ginning at sunset of the previous day 


(according to our reckoning) and end 
ing with the daylight portion, down to 
the setting of the sun, on the following 
day (as we would reckon it). 

Second, the twenty-four-hour day 
serves as a better symbol than a mere 
daylight day in regard to the com- 
mencement and completion of one 
stage of creation before the next stage 
began. There were definite and dis- 
tinct stages in God’s creational proce- 
dure. If this be the true intention of 
the formula, then it serves as no real 
evidence for a literal twenty-four- 
hour-day concept on the part of the 
biblical author. 

Some have argued that the refer- 
ence in the Decalogue (commandment 
four) to God’s resting on the seventh 
day as a basis for honoring the seventh 
day of each week strongly suggests the 
literal nature of “day” in Genesis 1. 
This is not at all compelling, however, 
in view of the fact that if there was to 
be any day of the week especially set 
aside from labor to center on the wor- 
ship and service of the Lord, then it 
would have to be a twenty-four-hour 
day (Saturday) in any event. As a mat- 
ter of fact. Scripture does not at all 
teach that Yahweh rested only one 
twenty-four-hour day at the conclusion 
of His creative work. No closing for- 
mula occurs at the close of the seventh 
day, referred to in Genesis 2:2-3. And, 
in fact, the New Testament teaches (in 
Heb. 4:1-11) that that seventh day, 
that “Sabbath rest,” in a very definite 
sense has continued on right into the 
church age. If so, it would be quite im- 
possible to line up the seventh-day 
Sabbath with the Seventh Day that 
concluded God’s original work of crea- 
tion! 

One last observation concerning the 
word yom as used in Genesis 2:4. Un- 
like some of the modern versions, kjv 
correctly renders this verse “These are 
the generations of the heavens and of 
the earth when they were created, in 
the day that the Lord God made the 


62 


GENESIS 


earth and the heavens.” Since the pre- 
vious chapter has indicated that there 
were at least six days involved in creat- 
ing the heavens and the earth, it is 
abundantly evident that yom in Gene- 
sis 2:4 cannot possibly be meant as 
a twenty-four-hour day — unless per- 
chance the Scripture contradicts itself ! 
(For a good discussion of this topic by a 
Christian professor of geology, see 
Davis A. Young, Creation and the Flood 
and Theistic Evolution [Grand Rapids: 
Baker, 1977]. Some details of his 
treatment are open to question, and he 
is not always precise in his terminol- 
ogy; but in the main his work furnishes 
a solid contribution to this area of 
debate.) 

The Antiquity of the Human Race 

Having presented the evidence for 
understanding the six creative days of 
Genesis 1 as distinct stages in the un- 
folding work of creation, we now pro- 
ceed to the question of the antiquity of 
Adam and the commencement of the 
human race. This matter has been dis- 
cussed at some length in my Survey of 
Old Testament Introduction (pp. 195-99). 
The great age assigned by palean- 
thropologists to the skeletons of vari- 
ous anthropoid species is a matter of 
considerable dispute. L.S.B. Leakey 
used potassium-argon analysis to ar- 
rive at the estimate of 1,750,000 years 
for the age of what he identified as the 
“Zinjanthropus” of Tanganykia (“Ex- 
ploring 1,750,000 Years into Man’s 
Past,” National Geographic [October 
1961]). Other specimens from the 
Olduvai Gorge area have been as- 
signed even greater age than this. 

The Neanderthal cave man is 
thought to have lived from 100,000 to 
50,000 years ago, and he seems to have 
mastered such skills as the fashioning 
of stone arrowheads and axe-heads. 
The Neanderthal man also seems to 
have used fire for his cooking in the 
preparation of food. He may even have 
had some involvement in art as well. 


though the remarkable cave paintings 
in the caves of Altamira and elsewhere 
may well have been the product of the 
later race of Cro-Magnons. 

At this point something should be 
said about some startling new geologi- 
cal discoveries that render the long- 
date estimates of conventional geologi- 
cal science nearly impossible to hold 
any longer. An extensive analysis of 
the evidence supplied by an exposed 
stratum on the bed of the Paluxy 
River, at Glen Rose, Texas, has been 
published by Cecil Dougherty of Tem- 
ple, Texas, under the title Valley of the 
Giants (Minneapolis: Bible-Science As- 
sociation, n.d.), which is now going 
into its sixth edition. In the Bible- 
Science Newsletter for April 1979 (p. 4), 
there is a report by Fred Beierle of 
Lyons, Kansas, concerning a 1978 field 
trip to this remarkable site. It exhibits 
on the very same stratum a good set of 
three-toed dinosaur tracks and then 
further upstream the characteristic 
tracks of Tyrannosaurus Rex and al- 
so of Brontosaurus. The low level of 
water during the summer drought 
made it especially easy to uncover and 
view areas where clear footprints of 
some early human species actually 
cross the tracks of those dinosaurs! 

Furthermore, in an adjacent level on 
the same Cretaceous layer as these 
tracks, there was a long black streak 
that proved to be a fallen tree branch 
that had been reduced to charcoal by 
fire and was subsequently engulfed in 
the limey surface. It was about two 
inches in diameter and seven feet in 
length and was located about two hun- 
dred meters downstream from the hu- 
man and dinosaur tracks. A section of 
this branch was removed and sent to R. 
Berger, a geophysicist at UCLA, for 
carbon- 14 analysis. He later sent back 
his finding: the branch was 12,800 
years old, ± 200 years. If this verdict is 
confirmed by other laboratories, it 
seems to indicate that the whole sci- 
ence of geochronology as practiced by 


63 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


traditional geologists is due for a com- 
plete overhaul. Here we have a late 
Mesozoic stratum containing evidence 
of early hominids contemporaneous 
with the most highly developed of the 
dinosaurs and dateable by the tree 
branch as being no more than 13,000 
years ago! 

An editorial on p.2 of this same issue 
of Bible-Science Newsletter furnishes an 
important clue as to the source of such 
gross error in the conventional geo- 
chronological methods of time compu- 
tation. The careful analysis of fission- 
able minerals (such as the breakdown of 
uranium to lead or of argon 40 to 
argon 36) has operated on the simplis- 
tic assumption that all such deposits 
were originally composed of pure par- 
ent elements. Then after the magma 
cooled off, the parent element sup- 
posedly began to break down with the 
gradual loss of electrons and became 
the daughter element with a lower 
atomic count. But samples taken from 
the core of fairly recent volcanoes, 
one thousand years old or less, have 
specimens evidencing ages of many 
millions or even billions of years — 
judging by the proportion of daughter 
elements to the parent elements in 
the same sample. This inevitably yields 
the result that even in the initial stage 
of deposition, such fissionable for- 
mations already contained a high pro- 
portion of daughter elements. There- 
fore, they are almost valueless, or 
completely misleading, for the dating 
of the levels in which they are found. 
It will be interesting to see how con- 
ventional geology theorists will cope 
with this discovery. It cannot remain 
permanently ignored or suppressed 
from the public, no matter how defen- 
sive the long-date theorists may feel 
about the matter. 

But however untrustworthy the dat- 
ing methods may be that have led to 
such high estimates of the antiquity of 
these anthropoids, the fact remains 
that they can hardly be dated later 


than the creation of the Adam and Eve 
referred to in Genesis 1-3. However 
the statistics of Genesis 5 may be han- 
dled, they can hardly end up with a date 
for Adam much before 10,000 b.c. If 
these figures in Genesis are at all to be 
trusted, even granting the occurrence 
of occasional gaps in the genealogical 
chain, we are compelled to regard all 
these early anthropoids as pre-Adam- 
ic. In other words, all these species, 
from the Cro-Magnon back to the Zin- 
janthropus, must have been advanced 
apes or anthropoids possessed of con- 
siderable intelligence and resource- 
fulness — but who completely died off 
before Adam and Eve were created. 

If we examine the biblical record 
carefully, we must recognize that when 
God created Adam and Eve in His own 
image (Gen. 1:27), He breathed some- 
thing of His own Spirit into them (Gen. 
2:7) in a way that He had not done to 
any previous order of creation. Did 
that divine image consist of some ma- 
terial form, some special kind of skele- 
ton or anatomic structure? Certainly 
not, for God is spirit, not flesh (John 
4:24). Therefore what made Adam of 
central importance was his inward 
makeup of soul (nepes) and spirit ( ruah ), 
as well as his physical frame and bodily 
nature, with its animal passions and 
drives. From that first true human be- 
ing, as a responsible moral agent, as a 
spirit-possessing person standing in 
covenant relationship with God, all the 
rest of the human race is descended 
(Rom. 5:12-21). 

There may have been advanced and 
intelligent hominids who lived and 
died before Adam, but they were not 
created in the image of God. This is 
the line of distinction to which God’s 
word commits us, and it is here that we 
must reject any interpretation of 
paleanthropological data that supposes 
that a skeletal resemblance establishes 
that pre-Adamic anthropoids were 
true human beings in the biblical sense 
of the term. Though these early cave 


64 


GENESIS 


dwellers may have developed certain 
skills in their pursuit of nourishment 
and engaged in war with one an- 
other — as other animals do — never- 
theless there is no archaeological 
evidence of a true human soul as hav- 
ing animated their bodies. 

Recent studies of the chimpanzee 
and the gorilla unquestionably show 
that subhuman species of ape are ca- 
pable of tool making (“Chimpanzees 
use more objects as tools and for more 
purposes than any creatures except 
ourselves” [Jane Goodall, “Life and 
Death at Gombe,” National Geographic 
(May 1979): 598]), holding hands, pat- 
ting one another, embracing and 
kissing. They are also capable of heart- 
less cruelty to one another, even to can- 
nibalism of their own young. Gorillas 
can even talk in sign language with hu- 
mans and tell lies to them, and they 
have actually learned how to use a cam- 
era (Francine Patterson, “Conversation 
With a Gorilla,” National Geographic 
[October 1978]: 458-59). Therefore, 
evidences of similar intelligence in pre- 
historic "man” are no decisive proof of 
humanity in the Adamic sense, nor of 
moral and spiritual capacity. Hence no 
strain is put on biblical credibility by 
these non-Adamic, pre-Adamic races, 
whatever their antiquity. 

In the Hebrew original, is the word 
“earth” used in Genesis 1:1 the same as 
“earth” in Genesis 1:10? (D*) 

Yes, the word is ’eres in both cases. 
Whether it refers to earth in general or 
to a more restricted area is something 
to be determined from context — as is 
true with many of our English words. 
For example, John 3:16 uses “world” 
(Gr. kosmos) in the sense of all the 
human race, as objects of God’s con- 
cern and redeeming love; but in 1 John 
2:15 (“Love not the world”) “world” 
is used in the sense of the organized 
system of rebellion, self-seeking and 
enmity toward God, which charac- 


terizes the human race in opposition 
to God. 

So also ’eres may be used in the sense 
of the entire planet Earth in contrast to 
the heavens (Gen. 1:1). Or it may be 
the dry land in contrast to the oceans 
and seas (v. 10). Or it may mean one 
particular country or geographical- 
political division, such as “the land of 
Israel” (2 Kings 5:2) or “the land of 
Egypt” (Exod. 20:2). In Genesis 2:5-9, 
’eres refers to the area of Eden, where 
God prepared a perfect setting for 
Adam and Eve to dwell. In almost 
every case the context will lead us to 
the correct sense in which the word is 
meant by the author. 

While it is reasonable to assume that 
God’s creation referred to in Genesis 
1:1 was “perfect,” this fact is not actu- 
ally so stated until after v.10. After the 
separation of water from dry land, it is 
mentioned that this work of creation 
was “good” (Heb. 2tdb, not the Hebrew 
word for “perfect,” lamim, which does 
not occur until Gen. 6:9, where it re- 
fers to the “blamelessness” of Noah). 
The “goodness” of God’s creative work 
is mentioned again in Genesis 1:12, 
18,21,25, and 31 (the last of which 
states, “And God saw all that he 
had made, and, behold, it was very 
good,” nasb). In the light of these cita- 
tions, it would be difficult to maintain 
that God’s creative work in Genesis 1 :2 
and thereafter was not really “good”; 
on the other hand, nowhere is it actu- 
ally affirmed that it was “perfect” — 
though the term tob may well have 
implied perfection. 

As for the reference to the earth’s 
being “waste and void” (Heb. tohu 
wabohu) in Genesis 1:2, it is not al- 
together clear whether this was a sub- 
sequent and resultant condition after a 
primeval catastrophe, as some scholars 
understand it (interpreting the verb 
haf [ah as “became” rather than 
“was”). It may simply have been that 
Genesis 1:1 serves as an introduction 
to the six-stage work of creation that is 


65 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


about to be described in the rest of 
chapter 1. In that case there is no in- 
tervening catastrophe to be accounted 
for; and the six creative days are to be 
understood as setting forth the orderly 
progressive stages in which God first 
completed his work of creating the 
planet Earth as we know it today. 

Those who construe haft_ah (“was”) 
as “became” (a meaning more usually 
associated with this verb when it is fol- 
lowed by the preposition /'" occurring 
before the thing or condition into 
which the subject is turned) under- 
stand this to indicate a primeval catas- 
trophe possibly associated with the 
rebellion of Satan against God, as 
suggested by Isaiah 14:10-14. That pas- 
sage seems to imply that behind the ar- 
rogant defiance of the king of Babylon 
against the Lord there stands as his in- 
spiration and support the prince of 
hell himself, who once said in his heart, 
"I will raise my throne above the stars 
of God; I will make myself like the 
Most High” (Isa. 14:14); this language 
would hardly have proceeded from the 
lips of any mortal king). 

In 2 Peter 2:4 we read that “God did 
not spare angels when they sinned, but 
cast them into hell and committed 
them to pits of darkness, reserved for 
judgment.” Those who espouse this in- 
terpretation suggest that a major disas- 
ter overtook the created heavens and 
earth mentioned in Genesis 1:1, as a 
result of which the earth needed to be 
restored — perhaps even recreated — in 
the six creative days detailed in the rest 
of Genesis 1. 

It must be understood, however, 
that there is no explicit statement any- 
where in Scripture that the primeval 
fall of Satan was accompanied by a 
total ruin of earth itself; it is simply an 
inference or conjecture, which may 
seem persuasive to some Bible students 
but be somewhat unconvincing to oth- 
ers. This, in brief, is the basis for the 
catastrophe theory. 


Do the names for God in Genesis 1 and 2 
show a difference in the authorship of the 
two chapters? 

It is true that throughout the 
thirty-one verses of Genesis 1 the only 
name for God used is Elohim, and that 
the personal name for God, i.e., 
Yahweh, becomes prominent in chap- 
ter 2. Nevertheless this distinction of 
usage in the two chapters furnishes no 
solid evidence of difference in author- 
ship. This theory was first brought into 
prominence by the French physician 
jean Astruc back in 1753. He felt that 
Genesis 1 must have been taken from 
some earlier literary source produced 
by an author who knew of God only by 
the name Elohim, whereas Genesis 2 
came from a different source that 
knew of God as Yahweh (or 
“Jehovah”). J. G. Eichhorn of Leipzig 
extended this Yahwist-Elohist source 
division to the rest of the chapters of 
Genesis all the way to Exodus 6:3, 
which was interpreted by him to mean 
that according to that “source” the 
name Yahweh was unknown until 
Moses' time. This implied that all the 
references to Yahweh occurring in 
Genesis must have come from a dif- 
ferent source (J) that supposed that He 
was known by that name before Moses’ 
time. 

Exodus 6:3 says, “And I appeared to 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Al- 
mighty [El Shaddai], but by My name 
Yahweh I did not make Myself known 
to them.” This might seem to imply 
that the name itself was unknown be- 
fore Moses’ time, but such an interpre- 
tation goes against actual Hebrew us- 
age. There is a very special significance 
to the phrase “to know the name of 
Yahweh” or “to know that I am 
Yahweh.” This expression occurs at 
least twenty-six times in the Old Tes- 
tament; and in every instance it sig- 
nifies to learn by actual experience that 
God is Yahweh, the covenant-keeping 


66 


GENESIS 


God who chastens, cares for, and de- 
livers His covenant people from their 
foes. Thus we read in Exodus 6:7, 
“You shall know that I am Yahweh 
your God, who brings you out from 
under the burdens of the Egyptians.” 
Even the Egyptians were to learn this 
from bitter experience, according to 
Exodus 14:4: “And the Egyptians shall 
know that I am Yahweh” — as a result 
of the ten plagues that were to fall on 
them. 

Obviously Pharaoh knew that the 
name of the God of Moses was 
Yahweh, for he so referred to Him in 
Exodus 5:2: “Who is Yahweh that 1 
should obey His voice to let Israel go?” 
Therefore we are to understand 
Exodus 6:3 as meaning “I showed My- 
self to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as 
the all-powerful Ruler of creation and 
Sovereign over all the forces of nature 
[i.e., as El Shaddai, God Almighty], but 
I did not show Myself to them as a 
covenant-keeping God in the miracu- 
lous, redemptive way that I am about 
to display in the deliverance of the en- 
tire nation of Israel from Egyptian 
bondage.” 

“Yahweh” connotes God’s faithful- 
ness and personal care of His covenant 
people — though this pertains to His 
dealings with individual believers as 
well. Thus in His relationships with 
Abraham and his family all through 
the Genesis account, God is referred to 
as Yahweh. But it was reserved for the 
generation of Moses to behold the 
wonder-working power of God on 
their behalf on an epoch-making scale. 
The Exodus record is marked by one 
redemptive miracle after another, with 
chastening judgments visited on Israel 
as well, in their times of rebellion and 
apostasy, until finally they were 
brought safely into the land of Canaan 
under Joshua, there to establish a new 
commonwealth under the guidance of 
the law of Moses. This, then, is the way 
we are to understand the true intent of 


Exodus 6:3, rather than in the simplis- 
tic way that Eichhorn and his followers 
of the Documentary (JEDP) school 
have construed it. 

Going back, then, to the explanation 
for the difference in the name-usage 
followed in Genesis 2 as opposed to 
Genesis 1, the reason for this distinc- 
tion is perfectly evident in the light of 
the previous discussion. “Elohim” was 
the only name of God appropriate in a 
narrative of God’s work of creation as 
Ruler over all nature and the universe. 
But in chapter 2 He comes into a per- 
sonal covenant with Adam and Eve; 
and therefore to them God (Elohim) 
displayed Himself as “Yahweh,” the 
God of grace and covenant. There- 
fore, throughout the chapter, in all 
eleven occurrences, Yahweh occurs in 
combination with Elohim, never alone. 
This clearly implies that the same God 
who made the universe in six creative 
stages is the very same Lord who loved 
and cared for Adam as His son, 
created after His own image. The same 
is true throughout chapter 3: “Yah- 
weh” is never used alone but only 
in combination with “Elohim.” Not 
until we come to Eve’s comment in 
Genesis 4: 1 do we encounter the first 
occurrence of “Yahweh” (or Lord) 
alone, without Elohim. 

In view of this consistent combina- 
tion of the two names throughout 
chapters 2 and 3, it is difficult to imag- 
ine how Astruc, Eichhorn, or any other 
scholar could have come up with the 
theory that there ever was a prior 
source that knew of God only by the 
name Yahweh. In view of the constant 
joining of the two names together, one 
would have to suppose that some later 
redactor chose to glue together by dint 
of scissors and paste a snippet of “J” 
ending with “Yahweh” with a snippet 
of “E” or “P” that began with “Elohim.” 
Such an artificial and bizarre process 
of combination extending through two 
entire chapters has never been dis- 


67 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


covered in the literature of any other 
nation or time. It calls for an extra- 
ordinary degree of naive credulity to 
suppose that it could have been so in 
the case of Genesis 2 and 3. 

Before closing this discussion, it 
ought to be pointed out that, on the 
basis of comparative literature of the 
Ancient Near East, all of Israel’s 
neighbors followed the practice of re- 
ferring to their high gods by at least 
two different names — or even three or 
four. In Egypt Osiris (the lord of the 
netherworld and the judge of the 
dead) was also referred to as Wennefer 
(He who is Good), Khent-amentiu 
(Foremost of the Westerners), and 
Neb-abdu (Lord of Abydos); and all 
four titles occur in the Ikhernofer 
Stela in the Berlin Museum. In 
Babylonia the god Bel was also known 
by his Sumerian title of Enlil and by 
Nunamnir as well (cf. the Prologue of 
the Lipit-Ishtar Law Code). Similarly 
the Moon god was both Sin and 
Nanna, and the great goddess Ishtar 
was also known as Inanna or Telitum. 
In the pre-Mosaic Canaanite culture of 
Ugarit in North Syria, Baal was fre- 
quently called Aliyan (and that too 
in successive stichoi of parallelistic 
poetry, just as in the Hebrew Psalter), 
whereas the king-god El was also 
known as Latpan, and the artificer 
god Kothar-wa-Khasis was also called 
Hayyin (cf. Pritchard, ANET, p. 151, 
in connection with Aqhat). 

In Greece the same practice held 
true: Zeus was also Kronion and 
Olympius; Athena was Pallas; Apollo 
was Phoebus and Pythius as well — all 
of which appear in parallelistic verses 
of Homer’s epics. To insist that this 
same phenomenon in Hebrew litera- 
ture must point to diverse prior sources 
is to ignore completely this abundant 
analogy from the literature of all of 
Israel’s neighbors. It is difficult to 
see how source division on the basis 
of divine names can be accepted as 
intellectually respectable in the light 


of the known facts of comparative 
literature. 

Doesn’t Genesis 2 present a different crea- 
tion order than Genesis 1? 

Genesis 2 does not present a creation 
account at all but presupposes the 
completion of God’s work of creation 
as set forth in chapter 1. The first 
three verses of Genesis 2 simply carry 
the narrative of chapter 1 to its final 
and logical conclusion, using the same 
vocabulary and style as employed in 
the previous chapter. It sets forth the 
completion of the whole primal work 
of creation and the special sanctity 
conferred on the seventh day as a sym- 
bol and memorial of God’s creative 
work. Verse 4 then sums up the whole 
sequence that has just been surveyed 
by saying, “These are the generations 
of heaven and earth when they were 
created, in the day that Yahweh God 
made heaven and earth.” 

Having finished the overall survey 
of the subject, the author then de- 
velops in detail one important feature 
that has already been mentioned: the 
creation of man. Kenneth Kitchen 
says, 

Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man 
as the last of a series, and without any 
details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the 
center of interest and more specific de- 
tails are given about him and his setting. 
Failure to recognize the complementary 
nature of the subject-distinction between 
a skeleton outline of all creation on the 
one hand, and the concentration in de- 
tail on man and his immediate environ- 
ment on the other, borders on obscurant- 
ism (Ancient Orient, p. 117). 

Kitchen then draws on the analogy of 
Egyptian inscriptions like the Karnak 
Poetical Stela of Thutmose III, the 
Gebel Barkal Stela, and those royal in- 
scriptions from Urartu that ascribe the 
defeat of the nation’s foes to their pa- 
tron god, Haldi, and then repeat the 
same victories in detail as achieved by 


68 


GENESIS 


the reigning king of Urartu. Kitchen 
then adds, 

What is absurd when applied to monu- 
mental Near Eastern texts that had 
no prehistory of hands and redactors 
should not be imposed on Genesis 1 and 
2, as is done by uncritical perpetuation 
of a nineteenth-century systematization 
of speculations by eighteenth-century dil- 
ettantes lacking, as they did, all knowl- 
edge of the forms and usages of Ancient 
Oriental literature (ibid.). 

As we examine the remainder of 
Genesis 2, we find that it concerns it- 
self with a description of the ideal set- 
ting that God prepared for Adam and 
Eve to begin their life in, walking in 
loving fellowship with Him as respon- 
sive and obedient children. Verses 5-6 
describe the original condition of the 
“earth,” or “land,” in the general re- 
gion of the Garden of Eden before it 
had sprouted verdure under the spe- 
cial watering system the Lord used for 
its development. Verse 7 introduces 
Adam as a newly fashioned occupant 
for whom Eden was prepared. Verse 8 
records how he was placed there to ob- 
serve and enjoy the beauty and rich- 
ness of his surroundings. Verses 9-14 
describe the various kinds of trees and 
the lush vegetation sustained by the 
abundant waters of the rivers that 
flowed out of Eden to the lower re- 
gions beyond its borders. Verse 15 in- 
dicates the absorbing activity that 
Adam had assigned to him as keeper 
and warden of this great natural pre- 
serve. 

From the survey of the first fifteen 
verses of chapter 2, it becomes quite 
apparent that this was never intended 
to be a general creation narrative. 
Search all the cosmogonies of the an- 
cient civilizations of the Near East, and 
you will never find among them a 
single creation account that omits all 
mention of the formation of sun, 
moon, and stars or ocean or seas — 
none of which are referred to in 


Genesis 2. It is therefore quite obvious 
that Genesis 1 is the only creation ac- 
count to be found in the Hebrew Scrip- 
ture and that it is already presupposed 
as the background of Genesis 2. Even 
the animals are not referred to until 
Adam is assigned the task of examin- 
ing them carefully, one by one, in 
order to decide on an appropriate 
name for each species or bird and 
beast that was brought before him 
(vv. 18-20). But before this phase of 
Adam’s experience begins, he is 
brought into covenant relationship 
with God, who grants him permission 
to eat of the fruit of every tree in the 
garden except one: the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil (vv. 1 6-17). 
Verse 1.8 then shows how Yahweh pro- 
ceeded to fill Adam’s foreseen need of 
companionship — first by the fellow- 
ship with the animals and birds (vv. 
19-20), then, after that proves to be 
unsatisfying, by the companionship 
of a wife, who is fashioned from the 
bone that was closest to Adam’s heart 
(vv.21-22). The chapter closes with a 
vivid portrayal of Adam’s joyous ac- 
ceptance of his new helpmate and his 
unreserved commitment to her in love. 

The structure of Genesis 2 stands in 
clear contrast to every creation account 
known to comparative literature. It 
was never intended to be a creation ac- 
count at all, except insofar as it related 
the circumstances of man’s creation as 
a child of God, fashioned in His image, 
infused with His breath of life, and 
brought into an intimate personal rela- 
tionship with the Lord Himself. Quite 
clearly, then, chapter 2 is built on the 
foundation of chapter 1 and repre- 
sents no different tradition than the 
first chapter or discrepant account of 
the order of creation. 

Can the Garden of Eden be located on a 
map? (D*) 

Genesis 2:10-14 furnishes some 
clues to the general location of Eden, 


69 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


but it presupposes geological condi- 
tions that no longer hold. Hence it is 
hazardous to conjecture any site more 
precise than the headwaters of the 
Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the 
highlands of Armenia (i.e., the eastern 
border of modern Turkey). 

The large river flowing from Eden 
subdivided into the Tigris and the 
Euphrates, as well as into two other 
long rivers (the Pishon, leading down 
to Havilah, along the southern coast of 
Arabia, and the Gihon, which went 
over to Cush — which may have been 
some Asiatic region lying to the east 
rather than the African Cush that was 
Ethiopia). 

This indicates that the site was a high 
plateau or mountainous region (insur- 
ing a cool and comfortable tempera- 
ture for Eden during the summer sea- 
son), having copious headwaters to 
supply the four major river systems 
this passage describes. The Havilah, 
through which the Pishon flowed, was 
rich in gold, spices, and deposits of 
precious stones — which were found in 
abundance along the southern or 
southwestern coasts of Arabia. For the 
Cush, no such helpful clues are given; 
the name has been connected by some 
scholars with Kish in Sumeria or with 
the Kassites (who are thought to have 
originated in the Zagros mountain re- 
gion). 

The most plausible explanation for 
the later complete disappearance of 
the Pishon and Gihon rivers is the 
theory that mountain-building activity 
accompanying continental drift (for 
Arabia was originally connected with 
the Somalian and Ethiopian coast dur- 
ing prehistoric times) may have termi- 
nated those two river systems in the 
antediluvian period. This would be 
analogous to the uplift of the Mount 
Seir Range in Edom, which prevented 
the Jordan River from flowing all the 
way down to the Gulf of Aqaba, as it 
originally did. 


Weren’t the Israelites under the old cov- 
enant saved through obedience to God 
rather than because they looked forward 
in faith to a coming Savior? What passages 
indicate that such faith was necessary for 
their salvation? (D*) 

From Genesis to Revelation the 
Bible makes it clear that no one was 
ever saved by his own good works but 
only by faith in the promises of God. 
Only in Eden was salvation put on the 
basis of obedience, with the accom- 
panying warning of death for trans- 
gression of God’s command: “But 
from the tree of the knowledge of 
good and evil you shall not eat, for in 
the day that you eat from it you shall 
surely die” (Gen. 2:17, nasb). In 
Genesis 3 this one command was bro- 
ken by both Eve and Adam in response 
to Satan’s temptation and deceit; and 
God confirmed their sentence of death 
by saying, “For you are dust, and to 
dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). 
From that time on, no human being 
has ever been saved by obedience — 
except the race of the redeemed, who 
are saved by faith in the atonement of 
Christ, whose deed of obedience paid 
the price of their salvation. 

It is true that in both Testaments 
great emphasis is laid on obedience. In 
Exodus 19:5 (nasb) God promised Is- 
rael, “Now then, if you will indeed 
obey My voice and keep My covenant, 
then you shall be My own possession 
among all the peoples.” But this by no 
means suggests an alternative way to 
heaven apart from faith; on the con- 
trary, this promise was given to a com- 
pany of believers who had already re- 
pented of sin and surrendered their 
hearts to the Lord in faith. Obedience 
was to be a necessary evidence or fruit 
of faith. It is not the apple that makes 
its parent tree an apple tree; it is the 
apple tree that makes its fruit an apple. 
Jesus said, “By their fruit you shall 
know them” (Matt. 7:16); in other 


70 


GENESIS 


words, grapes come only from vines, 
not thorn bushes, and figs only from 
fig trees, not thistles. Obedience is a 
necessary and natural consequence of 
faith, but it is never described as a sub- 
stitute for faith anywhere in Scripture. 

It should be noted that from the 
very beginning Adam and Eve taught 
their sons the necessity of sacrifice to 
the Lord for the sins they may have 
committed; thus Abel presented the 
acceptable blood sacrifice on his 
altar — as an act of faith that typically 
presented in advance the Atonement 
later to be offered on Calvary. He- 
brews 1 1 :4 makes this clear, “By faith 
Abel offered to God a better sacrifice 
than Cain. . . . And through faith, 
though he is dead, he still speaks.” 
Genesis 15:6 records that when Abra- 
ham believed God, God reckoned it 
to him for righteousness. Romans 4:13 
tells us that "the promise to Abraham 
and his descendants that he would be 
heir of the world was not through the 
law, but through the righteousness of 
faith." 

As for the generation of Moses, to 
whom the promise of Exodus 19:5 was 
given, there could have been no mis- 
understanding whatever concerning 
the principle of salvation through faith 
alone. From the same chapter that con- 
tains the Ten Commandments comes 
the first of several references to sacrifi- 
cial worship: "You shall make an altar 
of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice 
on it your burnt offerings and your 
peace offerings, your sheep and your 
oxen” (Exod. 20:24, nasb). The under- 
lying principle of each sacrifice was 
that the life of the innocent animal 
victim was substituted for the guilty, 
forfeited life of the believer. He re- 
ceived the forgiveness of God only 
through repentance and faith, not 
through obedience. 

Hebrews 10:4, referring to the Old 
Testament dispensation, declares, “For 
it is impossible for the blood of bulls 


and goats to take away sins” (nasb). 
Earlier, in 9:11-12, the Scripture 
states: “But when Christ appeared as a 
high priest of the good things to come, 
He entered through the greater and 
more perfect tabernacle, not made 
with hands, . . . and not through the 
blood of goats and calves, but through 
His own blood, He entered the holy 
place once for all, having obtained eter- 
nal redemption” (nasb). 

How, then, is the benefit of this 
blood-bought atonement brought to 
sinners? It comes only through faith, 
not through deeds of obedience as 
works of merit — whether before the 
Cross or after. Scripture declares, “By 
grace you have been saved through 
faith; and that not of yourselves, it is 
the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8, nasb). But 
what kind of faith? The counterfeit 
faith that betrays itself by disobedience 
to the revealed will of God and by 
bondage to self and to sin? Certainly 
not! Salvation comes only through a 
true and living faith that takes se- 
riously the absolute lordship of Christ 
and produces the fruit of a godly 
life — a life of true obedience, based on 
a genuine surrender of heart, mind, 
and body (Rom. 12:1). 

It is from this perspective that we are 
to understand the earnest calls to 
obedience from the Old Testament 
prophets; “If you consent and obey, 
you will eat the best from the land; but 
if you refuse and rebel, you will be de- 
voured with the sword” (Isa. 1:19-20). 
Similar is the requirement laid down 
by Jesus Himself: “And why do you 
call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do 
what I say?” (Luke 6:46, nasb). The 
apostles concur: “Even so consider 
yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive 
to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do 
not let sin reign in your mortal body 

that you should obey its lusts But 

thanks be to God that though you were 
slaves of sin, you became obedient 
from the heart to that form of teaching 


71 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


to which you were committed, and hav- 
ing been freed from sin, you became 
slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:11 — 
12,17-18, nasb). 

Did Adam really die when he ate of the 
forbidden fruit? 

In Genesis 2:17 God warned Adam, 
“But from the tree of the knowledge of 
good and evil you shall not eat, for in 
the day that you eat from it you shall 
surely die” (nasb). Later, in 3:4, Satan’s 
serpent assured Eve, "Surely you will 
not die!” When Adam and Eve yielded 
to temptation and partook of the for- 
bidden fruit, they certainly did not 
drop dead on that fateful day; but they 
lived on to face the rebuke of God 
(3:8-19). Was Satan right? Did God fail 
to carry out His promise? Gertainly 
not! But the death that overtook the 
guilty pair that day was spiritual only; 
physical death did not come until cen- 
turies later (Gen. 5:5). 

Scripture distinguishes three types 
of death. First, there is physical death, 
which involves separation of the soul 
from the body. The separated body 
undergoes chemical dissolution and 
reverts to the “dust of the ground” 
(i.e., the elements of which it was com- 
posed). The soul (nepes) of subhuman 
creatures apparently - ceases to exist (cf. 
Eccl. 3:2 1 : “Who knows that the breath 
[ruah, used here in the sense of the 
breath of life, metonymic of the non- 
material personality of the human or 
subhuman animal] of man ascends 
upward and the breath of the beast de- 
scends downward to the earth?”). On 
the day Adam was disobedient, the 
sentence of physical death was im- 
posed; but by God’s grace the execu- 
tion of that sentence was delayed. 

The Old Testament people of God 
were fully aware that physical death 
did not entail the annihilation of the 
person who indwelt the body. Genesis 
25:8 states that Abraham after his de- 
cease “was gathered to his people” — 


which implies a continuing conscious- 
ness of personal relationship with 
those who had preceded him in death. 
Job 19:25-26 quotes the suffering pa- 
triarch as saying: “As for me, I know 
that my Redeemer lives, and at the last 
He will take His stand on the earth. 
Even after my skin is flayed [lit., 
‘stripped off’], yet in (lit., from) my 
flesh I shall see God” (cf. 2 Sam. 12:23; 
Pss. 49:15; 73:24; 84:7; Isa. 25:8; 26:19; 
Hos. 13: 14). Already in Daniel 12:2 we 
find a reference to the bodily nature of 
deceased persons as “sleeping” in the 
dust of the earth, from whence they 
shall be raised up. 

In the New Testament this same res- 
urrection of both the evil and the 
good is taken up by Ghrist Himself in 
John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; 
for an hour is coming, in which all who 
are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 
and shall come forth; those who did 
the good deeds, to a resurrection of 
life, those who committed evil deeds to 
a resurrection of judgment” (nasb). 
The implication is that all humans 
after death remain in a state of sleep or 
suspended animation so far as their 
bodily nature is concerned. In the New 
Testament specific references to this 
state of sleep pertain to believers, at 
least so far as Paul’s Epistles are con- 
cerned (1 Cor. 11:30; 15:51; 1 Thess. 
4:14; 5:10). But their soul and spirit, 
which prior to the resurrection of 
Christ waited in that portion of hades 
referred to by Christ as “Abraham’s 
bosom” (Luke 16:22), go to be with 
Christ immediately upon death (Phil. 
1:23). 

The second type of death taught in 
Scripture is spiritual death. It is this as- 
pect of death that overtook our first 
parents immediately upon their act of 
sin. Alienation toward God was shown 
by their vain attempt to hide from Him 
when He came to have fellowship with 
them in the cool of the evening (Gen. 
3:8). It was apparent from their at- 
titude of guilty fear toward Him 


72 


GENESIS 


(3:10), in the curse of expulsion from 
the Garden of Eden (where they had 
enjoyed intimate and cordial fellow- 
ship with Him), in the curse of toil and 
pain both in the eking out of a living 
from the soil and in the process of 
childbirth, and in the eventual death of 
the body and its reversion to the soil 
from which it was made (3:16-19,23- 
24). From that moment on, Adam and 
Eve fell into a state of spiritual death, 
separated from the living God through 
their violation of His covenant. As 
Ephesians 2:1-3 expresses it, they be- 
came “dead in trespasses and sins,” 
walking according to the course of 
Satan and this present evil world, ful- 
filling the desires of the flesh and the 
mind, as children of disobedience and 
wrath. 

Not only did Adam and Eve become 
guilty before God and thereby fall into 
a state of unrighteousness, but they 
also incurred that defilement and pol- 
lution that characterize the unholy life 
of the fallen sarx (“fleshly nature”) that 
is basically alienated toward God and 
in a state of enmity toward Him (Rom. 
8:5-8). Hence the mind-set ( phronema ) 
of the sarx is death (v.6), and those who 
abide in this state are incapable of 
pleasing God (v.8). Hence they are 
alienated from the life of God, being 
completely helpless to save themselves 
or to earn any merit or favor in the 
eyes of God. They are utterly lost from 
the time they first begin their earthly 
life (Ps. 51:5), for they are born as 
“children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). 

Such was the condition of Adam and 
Eve as soon as they committed their 
first transgression. They were plunged 
immediately into a state of spiritual 
death, from which they had no pros- 
pect of recovery, despite the most 
strenuous efforts to lead a better life. 
Yet the biblical account goes on to tell 
of God’s forgiveness and remedial 
grace. To that guilty pair He gave the 
promise (Gen. 3:15) that one of Eve’s 
descendants would someday crush the 


head of the satanic serpent, at the cost 
of personal suffering (suggestive of 
His death on the Cross). 

Instead of immediately inflicting the 
penalty of physical death on them, God 
gave Adam and Eve a set of guidelines 
for their life subsequent to their expul- 
sion from Eden— which surely implied 
that their execution was to be delayed 
for some gracious purpose, even though 
they had forfeited the communion 
they had formerly enjoyed with God. 
God also provided them with animal 
pelts to cover up their nakedness and 
to protect them from the cold and the 
rigors of the outside world. But to fur- 
nish them with such pelts, it was neces- 
sary to take the lives of the animals 
whose fur they were to wear. It may 
have been in this connection that God 
taught Adam and Eve about blood sac- 
rifice on the altar, as a means of their 
laying hold in advance of the atoning 
merit of the Cross — that vicarious, sub- 
stitutionary death that the messianic 
“seed of the woman” was someday to 
offer up on the hill of Golgotha. As 
they responded in repentance and 
faith (bestowed on them by the Holy 
Spirit), they were rescued from their 
state of death and brought into a state 
of grace. This faith is deduced from 
the sacrificial practice of their son 
Abel, who presented the firstlings of 
his flock as a blood sacrifice on his altar 
in his worship of God. Blood sacrifice 
presupposes a concept of substitution, 
whereby the innocent dies in place of 
the guilty. 

The third type of death referred to 
in Scripture is eternal death, that fi- 
nal, complete, and irremediable state of 
eternal separation from God, who is the 
only true source of life and joy. This 
death is referred to in Revelation 
20:14 as the “second death.” This is 
characterized by unending and unre- 
lieved pangs of conscience and anguish 
of soul, corresponding to the ever- 
ascending smoke of the torment of the 
damned (Rev. 14: 1 1). This is said to be 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


the final state of Satan, the Beast (or 
the self-deifying world dictator of the 
last days), and his religious col- 
laborator, the False Prophet (Rev. 
20: 10). All three are to be cast into the 
“lake of fire and brimstone,” there to 
be tormented “day and night forever 
and ever.” Revelation 21:8 reveals that 
every type of unrepentant, unforgiven 
sinner (the cowardly, the unbelieving 
or untrustworthy, the murderers, the 
sexually immoral, the sorcerers and 
idolaters, and all liars) will likewise be 
cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, 
which is the second death. This, then, 
is the ultimate destiny of those who 
willfully abide in a state of spiritual 
death until they experience their phys- 
ical death. “He who believes in Him is 
notjudged; he who does not believe has 
been judged already, because he has 
not believed in the name of the only 
begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, 
nasb). “He who believes in the Son 
has eternal life; but he who does not 
obey [or believe] the Son shall not see 
life, but the wrath of God abides on 
him” (John 3:36). 

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent told 
Eve that if she and Adam ate of the for- 
bidden fruit, they would be “as gods” 
(Gen. 3:5 kjv). Then in Genesis 3:22 God 
says, “Behold, the man has become like 
one of us” (nasb). Does “gods” and “us” 
imply the existence of more than one God? 

Not at all. The usual Hebrew term 
for “God” is ,< ‘lcihim, which is the plural 
of >e loah. It is occasionally used as a 
true plural, referring to the imaginary 
gods of the heathen. But usually it re- 
fers to the one true God, and the 
plural ending is known to Hebrew 
grammarians as the “plural of maj- 
esty.” Like donim (“lords” or “Lord”) 
and b'alim (plural of ba‘al, “lord,” 
“master,” “owner,” “husband”), y ldhUn 
also may be used to give a heightened 
impressiveness of majesty to God. As 
such, this plural is modified by adjec- 


tives in the singular and takes a singular 
verb. 

In the case of the serpent, serving as 
Satan’s mouthpiece, his previous uses 
of ’ e ldhim (3:1,5a) are unquestionably 
intended as a designation of the one 
true God; hence, it is altogether likely 
that it should be so used here. There- 
fore, the proper rendering of 3:5b 
should be (as asv, nasb, niv, and even 
the Luther Bible): “You will be like 
God, knowing good and evil.” The last 
phrase acts as a qualifier; that is, “you 
will be like God in that you will have 
personal knowledge of the moral law, 
with the distinction that it draws be- 
tween good and evil.” No longer would 
they remain in a state of innocency, but 
they would have a (guilty) personal ex- 
perience of evil and would be to that 
extent closer to God and His angels in 
the matter of full moral awareness. 

Who, then, constitutes the “us” re- 
ferred to in v.22? Conceivably the 
three persons of the Trinity might be 
involved here (as in Gen. 1:26), but 
more likely “us” refers to the angels 
surrounding God’s throne in heaven 
(cf. 1 Kings 22:19; Isa. 6:1-3, etc.). 
There are a few passages in the Old 
Testament where the angels are re- 
ferred to as b e ne ’ e luhim ("sons of 
God,” e.g.. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:6; cf. b e ne 
’elim — a shortened form of ’ e ldhim, Pss. 
29:1; 89:6). In some cases, just as b^ne 
Yisrael (“sons of Israel”) is shortened to 
Yisrael alone (referring to the nation of 
Israel rather than to Jacob), so also 
b e ne ’ e ldhim (“sons of God” in the sense 
of angels) is shortened to ’ r luhim , as in 
Psalm 97:7. 

It was certainly true of the angels of 
heaven that they too had acquired a 
knowledge of good and evil. Before 
the dawn of human history, there was 
apparently a revolt against God under 
the leadership of Satan or “Lucifer” 
(see Isa. 14:12-15, where Satan is ad- 
dressed as the patron of the king of 
Babylon). I bis is probably alluded to 
in 2 Peter 2:4: “God did not spare 


74 


GENESIS 


angels when they sinned, but cast them 
into hell and committed them to pits 
of darkness, reserved for judgment.” 
Therefore, those angels who remained 
true to the Lord were members of His 
heavenly court, having passed the tests 
of faithfulness and obedience in the 
face of temptation. 

If it was not until after Adam and Eve had 
eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge 
and were hiding their nakedness in the 
garden that God knew they had disobeyed 
Him, how is this compatible with the be- 
lief that God is everywhere and knows 
what is in man’s heart and what man will 
do? 

The inference that God did not 
foreknow that Adam and Eve would 
yield to temptation and fall into sin is 
not supported by Scripture. If John 
the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the 
“Lamb of God slain from the founda- 
tion of the world” (cf. Rev. 13:8), then 
God certainly foreknew that our first 
parents would sin and fall before they 
were even created. Even so, Jesus 
foreknew — and foretold — Peter’s tri- 
ple denial of Him in the courtyard of 
the high priest, even though Peter as- 
serted his willingness to die for his 
Master if need be (Matt. 26:33-35). It 
was after Peter had denied knowing 
Jesus for the third time that Jesus 
turned His gaze in Peter’s direction and 
their eyes met (Luke 22:60-61). 

When the Lord called out to Adam 
in the garden (Gen. 3:9), He knew per- 
fectly well where Adam was hiding (cf. 
Ps. 139:2-3), what he had been think- 
ing, and what he had done (cf. Prov. 
15:3). But there was no other w'ay He 
could deal with Adam and Eve con- 
cerning their sin than to question them 
about it: “Have you eaten from the 
tree? . . . What is this that you have 
done?” (Gen. 3:11,13). Parents nor- 
mally use this approach when they ap- 
prehend their children in wrongdoing, 
even though they are well aware of 


their guilt. The use of a question leads 
to the necessary first step of confes- 
sion: “Yes, Father, I broke it — by acci- 
dent, of course.” 

Obviously, God was already aware of 
what Adam and Eve had done, and He 
had already decided how to deal with 
them in the light of their transgression 
(Gen. 3:14-19). This is simply an 
example of the general principle set 
forth in Acts 15:18: "Known to God 
are all His works from the beginning 
of the world.” See also Isaiah 41:26; 
42:9,23; 43:9,12; 44:7-8— all of which 
lay the strongest stress on God’s fore- 
knowledge of the future and His ability 
to predict exactly what is going to hap- 
pen, even to revealing these matters to 
His prophets centuries in advance of 
their occurrence. 

Were Adam and Eve saved? When God 
clothed them with animal skins after the 
Fall, did He also teach them about blood 
sacrifice and the atonement? Was Adam a 
high priest for his family? 

The first people to be forgiven of 
their sin were undoubtedly Adam and 
Eve. Their repentance and forgiveness 
are presupposed in Genesis 3:9-21, 
even though it is not explicitly spelled 
out. To be sure, the recorded remarks 
of both Adam and Eve included some 
evasion of personal responsibility for 
eating the forbidden fruit — Adam 
blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent — 
but both admitted by implication that 
they had actually committed the very 
offense that they had promised never 
to do. 

Even though no genuine, full admis- 
sion of guilt and repentance for sin is 
recorded in this chapter, the discipli- 
nary measures meted out by God — Eve 
is to have painful childbirth and be 
subordinate to her husband; Adam is 
to eke out a hard living from the soil, 
with the prospect of eventual death to 
his body — are governed by considera- 
tions of forgiveness and grace. God did 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


not reject them and leave them to the 
punishment they deserved, but He put 
them under a chastening discipline out 
of motives of love. He showed His 
purpose to be a salutary reminder of 
their past unfaithfulness and of their 
need to put Him first in their lives. 

Since Genesis 3: 15 contains the first 
announcement of the coming of the 
Savior — “He [the Seed of the woman] 
shall bruise you on the head, and you 
[the satanic serpent] shall bruise him 
on the heel” — it seems logical to con- 
clude that at the time God clothed the 
nakedness of Adam and Eve, He also 
instructed them in the significance of 
the atoning blood of the substitute sac- 
rifice. Adam then doubtless passed on 
to his sons his understanding of the 
blood-sacrifice atonement; for it is 
clear that Abel, Adam’s second son, 
was a true believer and was well in- 
structed about substitutionary atone- 
ment, symbolized by his sacrifice of an 
innocent lamb on the altar (Gen. 4:4). 

Cain and Abel seem to have ap- 
proached their own altars directly, 
thus being personally responsible for 
their offerings, since there is no men- 
tion of Adam’s serving them in a 
priestly capacity. Cain’s vegetable of- 
fering would never have secured his 
father’s approval, because Cain tried to 
approach God without atoning blood; 
and Adam would never have approved 
what God condemned (Gen. 4:5). 

We conclude, therefore, that Adam 
and Eve were the first humans to con- 
ceive of saving faith in the grace of 
God, though Abel was the first person 
to die in a state of salvation, having 
predeceased his father by more than 
eight hundred years (Gen. 5:3-5). 

One final comment about drawing 
conclusions from silence needs to be 
made. The Gospels never speak of 
Jesus ever kissing His mother. But 
would it be safe to conclude that He 
never did? Even so it is unjustified to 
infer from the absence of Adam’s 


words of self-condemnation and sor- 
row for sin that he never, in the 930 
years of his earthly life, expressed his 
heartfelt repentance to the Lord. 

What was there about Cain’s offering that 
made it unacceptable to God? Was it the 
offering itself, or was it Cain’s attitude? 
(D*) 

It would appear that Cain was at 
fault, both in his attitude and in the 
offering he presented to the Lord. 
Cain’s sacrifice consisted of crops he had 
raised in his garden (Gen. 4:3), rather 
than a blood sacrifice, as his younger 
brother Abel had set before the Lord. 

That Abel presented a blood sac- 
rifice and did so in faith (cf. Heb. 1 1 :4) 
strongly suggests that he was claiming 
a divine promise of grace as he laid his 
lamb on the altar — a promise he had 
learned from his parents. God there- 
fore was pleased with Abel’s offering 
(Gen. 4:4) and responded to him with 
approval, in contradistinction to His 
rejection of Cain's offering. It would 
seem that Cain had followed his own 
judgment in choosing a bloodless sac- 
rifice, disregarding the importance of 
blood as explained by God to Adam 
and Eve, and disregarding the princi- 
ple of substitutionary atonement that 
later found its complete fulfillment in 
the crucifixion of Christ. 

Cain’s willful substitution of the 
work of his own hands in place of aton- 
ing grace was followed by a savage 
jealousy and burning resentment to- 
ward his younger brother (Gen. 4:5). 
This eventuated in his murder of Abel 
out in the field, where Cain supposed 
no one could see him. His proud self- 
will led him to commit homicide, and 
his descendants carried on something 
of his man-centered. God-denying at- 
titude for many generations to come 
(see Gen. 4:18-24; cf. "the daughters 
of men” in Gen. 6:2). 


76 


GENESIS 


Two of the sons of Adam and Eve had 
wives. Where did their wives come from? 
(D*) 

Genesis 5:4 tells us that during 
Adam’s long lifetime of 930 years (800 
after the birth of Seth), he had other 
sons and daughters. Since he and Eve 
had been ordered to produce a large 
family in order to populate the earth 
(Gen. 1:28), it is reasonable to assume 
that they continued to have children 
for a long period of time, under the 
then ideal conditions for longevity. 

Without question it was necessary 
for the generation following Adam to 
pair off brothers and sisters to serve as 
parents for the ensuing generation; 
otherwise the human race would have 
died off. It was not until the course of 
subsequent generations that it became 
possible for cousins and more distant 
relations to choose each other as mar- 
riage partners. There seems to be no 
definite word about the incestuous 
character of brother-sister marriage 
until the time of Abraham, who em- 
phasized to the Egyptians that Sarah was 
his sister (cf. Gen. 20:12), thus imply- 
ing to the Egyptians that if she was his 
sister, she could not be his wife (Gen. 
12:13). 

In Leviticus 20:17 the actual sanc- 
tion against brother-sister marriage 
is spelled out. But as for Cain and 
Seth and all the other sons of Adam 
who married, they must have chosen 
their sisters as wives. 

Why do people not live as long now as 
they did in early times (cf. Gen. 5:5; Ps. 
90:10)? Was time calculated differently 
then? (D*) 

At the time Adam and Eve were 
created, they were in an ideal envi- 
ronment for the preservation of 
human life. The Garden of Eden was 
ideally suited to maintaining their 
health and vigor unimpaired. Even 


after they were expelled from Eden, it 
would seem that conditions for longev- 
ity were still far more favorable than 
they later became after the Flood; and 
there may well have been a virtual ab- 
sence of disease. When these condi- 
tions gradually changed for the worse, 
particularly after the terrible judgment 
of the Flood, the life expectancy of 
man became progressively shorter. By 
Moses’ time a lifetime of seventy years 
was considered normal, and those who 
lived on to eighty or beyond were gen- 
erally beset with discomforts and 
weaknesses of various sorts, until they 
finally passed off the scene (see Ps. 
90:10, dating back to the time of 
Moses, around 1400 B.c.). It seems that 
there was a gradual working out of the 
cursed effects of sin on the physical 
well-being and stamina of the human 
race, even long after the Fall had taken 
place. 

As for the suggestion that time may 
have been computed differently dur- 
ing the earlier history of mankind, this 
could only have been the case if the 
planet Earth revolved more rapidly 
around the sun then than it does now. 
By definition a year is reckoned as the 
time necessary for the earth to revolve 
around the sun. According to Genesis 
1:14, this revolution, as well as the 
daily rotation of the earth, was pretty 
well set and standardized right from 
the beginning. It is rather unlikely 
(though not absolutely impossible) that 
these planetary movements would 
have greatly altered since the creation 
of man. 

Why is so much emphasis put on the an- 
tediluvian genealogy in the Bible? If the 
whole world was destroyed with the 
Flood, wouldn’t everybody be of the same 
bloodline through Noah and his family? 
In other words, aren’t we all related? (D*) 

Yes, we are indeed all descendants 
of Noah, for all other families in the 


77 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


antediluvian human race were de- 
stroyed by the Flood (so Gen. 7:21: 
“And all flesh that moved on the earth 
perished, birds and cattle and 
beasts . . . and all mankind”). The rea- 
son for the genealogical listing in 
Genesis 5 was to give the family line of 
Noah himself, since his descent from 
Adam through the covenant line of 
true believers was a matter of prime 
importance. Likewise in the genealogy 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, as given in 
Luke’s gospel, these same antediluvian 
ancestors are listed (see Luke 3:36-38) 
to show that the Second Adam was de- 
scended from the first Adam. Fur- 
thermore, the godly walk of leaders 
like Seth, the son of Adam (Gen. 4:26), 
and his son Enosh was a matter of 
great importance; so too was the close 
fellowship Enoch had with God before 
the Lord took him at the age of three 
hundred years to dwell with Flim in 
heaven’s glory. 

Are there passages in the Old Testament 
indicating that the men and women of an- 
cient Israel entertained a heavenly hope? 
(D*) 

It is a mistake to suppose that God’s 
people had no heavenly hope in Old 
Testament times. Genesis 5:24 records 
that, after a godly life, Enoch was 
taken away ( laqah ) by God — with the 
clear implication that from that time 
on he was in God’s presence. (Flebrews 
1 1 :5 confirms this: “By faith Enoch was 
taken up so that he should not see 
death; and he was not found because 
God took him up” [nasb]. Enoch 
therefore never died but went directly 
to God’s presence.) 

Despite his moods of deep discour- 
agement, the patriarch Job still showed 
confidence when he said, “After my 
skin has been destroyed, yet in [from 
the vantage point of] my flesh I will see 
God [just previously referred to as 
Job’s Redeemer (go el) in Job 19:25]” 
(Job 19:26). (The rendering “without 


my flesh I shall see” runs counter to 
the usage of the preposition min 
[“from”] wherever else in the OT it is 
used with the verb “see,” whether 
hazah, the one used here, or with the 
more common raah. Everywhere else 
min refers to the vantage point from 
which the looking is done.) 

In the Psalms, David and his succes- 
sors offer many intimations of future 
life with God. Even the assertion in 
Psalm 1:5 that ungodly men and sin- 
ners will “not stand in the congrega- 
tion of the righteous” implies a final 
judgment either to condemnation or to 
acquittal and acceptance — terms that 
would be meaningless if moldering 
skeletons were all that remained after 
this earthly life is over. Psalm 16:10 
mentions the hope of the bodily resur- 
rection (clearly applied to the resurrec- 
tion of Christ in Acts 2:27,31), and 
is followed by a strong affirmation: 
“In thy presence is fullness of joy; at 
thy right hand there are pleasures 
forever” (Ps. 16:11). “Forever” here is 
nesah, a term that can hardly be shown 
elsewhere to mean simply ‘the rest 
of my earthly life’ but that clearly 
suggests permanence beyond the 
grave. Again, Psalm 49:15 reads: “God 
will redeem me from the power of the 
grave, for He will receive me [laqah, or 
‘take me away’].” This sounds like an 
assurance that God will not simply 
keep the psalmist from dying prema- 
turely but rather that he will ever live 
on with God — in contrast to the 
spiritually foolish and wicked, whose 
ultimate home will be Sheol (vv. 10-14). 
A similar confidence is expressed in 
Psalm 73:24: “Thou shalt guide me 
with thy counsel, and afterward [’ahar] 
receive [laqah] me to [or “with”] glory.” 

Turning to the Prophets, we find 
that Isaiah has a remarkable passage 
on this theme in 25:8: “He will swallow 
up death in victory, and the Lord Yah- 
weh will wipe tears away from all faces, 
and He will remove the reproach of 
His people from all the earth; for Yah- 


78 


GENESIS 


weh has spoken.” And again, Isaiah 
26:19: “Your dead ones will live, My 
dead bodies will arise; those who dwell 
in the dust have awakened and they 
shout for joy . . . and the earth will give 
birth to the shades [of the deceased].” 
Compare this with Daniel 12:2: “Many 
of those who sleep in the dust of the 
ground will awake, these to everlasting 
life, but the others to disgrace and ever- 
lasting contempt” (nasb) (quoted by 
Jesus in Matt. 25:46, in a beyond-the- 
grave context). Danid 12:13 contains 
this blessed promise to Daniel per- 
sonally: “You will enter into rest and 
rise again for your allotted portion at 
the end of the age.” 

There can be no question, in the 
light of the above, that the Old Testa- 
ment contained very definite teaching 
concerning the life of the believer be- 
yond the grave in the care of — even in 
the presence of — the Lord God Him- 
self. 

Therefore the New Testament is 
abundantly justified in Christ’s affir- 
mation that Abraham rejoiced to see 
the day of Christ’s coming to earth 
(John 8:56), and that he looked for a 
heavenly city “whose builder and 
maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). But it 
should be added that apart from a few 
exceptions, like Enoch, Moses, and 
Elijah, it may well have been that the 
general congregation of redeemed be- 
lievers were not exalted to the full 
glory of God’s presence until the price 
of their redemption had been actually 
paid at Calvary (see Matt. 27:52; Eph. 
4:8; Heb. 11:39^10). It was therefore 
appropriate for the more detailed and 
glowing descriptions of the saved re- 
joicing in heaven’s glory to be reserved 
for the pages of the New Testament. 

Does “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 refer to 
angels? 

Genesis 6: 1 -2 reads: “When men 
began to increase in number on the 
earth and daughters were born to 


them, the sons of God saw that the 
daughters of men were beautiful, and 
they married any of them they chose” 
(niv). The term Vsons of God” (fne 
Id him) is used in the Old Testament 
of either angels or men who are true 
believers, committed to the service of 
God. Passages that refer to angels as 
b e ne ' r ldhim include Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; 
Psalms 29:1; 89:6 (89:7 MT). The 
Masoretic text (MT) does not contain 
this phrase in Deuteronomy 32:43, but 
a fragment of a Hebrew text found in 
Qumran Cave Four reads: “Shout joy- 
ously, O heavens, with Him, and wor- 
ship Him, O sons of God [ b e ne ’ e luhim], 
and ascribe to Him might, all you sons 
of the mighty [b e ne ’ elim ]. Shout joy- 
ously, O nations, concerning His 
people, and accord strength to Him, all 
you angels of God [kol-mal’ a ke ’el]” 
This is considerably more expanded 
than the received Hebrew text (MT) of 
this verse, but it may possibly be the 
original wording. It was probably the 
passage quoted in Hebrews 1:6 — 
though Psalm 97:7 may also be the 
source for that verse. 

But the occurrences of b e ne ’ e lohim 
referring to men standing in covenant 
relationship to God are fully as numer- 
ous in the Old Testament as those re- 
ferring to angels (cf. Deut. 14:1; 32:5; 
Ps. 73:15; Hos. 1:10 [MT=2: 1]— and, 
we believe, Gen. 6:2 as well). The rea- 
sons for understanding Genesis 6:2 as 
referring to members of the covenant 
family, descendants of the line of Seth, 
are quite compelling. Scripture clearly 
teaches that angels are spirits, “minis- 
tering spirits sent to serve those who 
will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14, niv). 
While they may on occasion appear in 
bodily form in the semblance of men, 
they have no physical bodies, and are 
therefore utterly incapable of carnal 
relations with women. The rabbinic 
speculation that angels are referred to 
in Genesis 6:2 is a curious intrusion of 
pagan superstition that has no basis at 
all in the rest of Scripture. The fact 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


that some children of gigantic stature 
( n e pilim , v.4) resulted from these mar- 
riages offers no evidence whatever of 
angelic paternity. No one claims that 
the sons of Anak, Goliath, and his 
brothers had any angelic forbears be- 
cause of their great stature; nor is 
there any reason to suppose that the 
antediluvian giants had supernatural 
forbears. 

What Genesis 6: 1-2 ,4 records is the 
first occurrence of mixed marriage be- 
tween believers and unbelievers, with 
the characteristic result of such unions: 
complete loss of testimony for the 
Lord and a total surrender of moral 
standards. In other words, the “sons of 
God” in this passage were descendants 
of the godly line of Seth. Instead of 
remaining true to God and loyal to 
their spiritual heritage, they allowed 
themselves to be enticed by the beauty 
of ungodly women who were 
“daughters of men” — that is, of the 
tradition and example of Cain. The 
natural result of such marriages was a 
debasement of nature on the part of 
the younger generations, until the en- 
tire antediluvian civilization sank to the 
lowest depths of depravity. “The Lord 
saw how great man’s wickedness on the 
earth had become, and that every in- 
clination of the thoughts of his heart 
was only evil all the time” (v.5, niv). 
The inevitable result was judgment, 
the terrible destruction of the Great 
Flood. 

Perhaps one last comment regarding 
angels would be in order here. If we 
were to concede that spirits could 
somehow enter into sexual relations 
with human beings — which they 
cannot — then they could not even so 
be fitted in with this passage here. If 
they were minions of Satan, that is, 
fallen angels, then they could not have 
been referred to as “sons of God.” 
Demons of hell would never be so des- 
ignated in Scripture. Nor could they 
have been angels of God, since God’s 
angels always live in total obedience to 


Him and have no other yearning or 
desire but to do God’s will and glorify 
His name. A sordid involvement with 
godless young women would therefore 
be completely out of character for 
angels as “sons of God.” the only vi- 
able explanation, therefore, is the one 
offered in the previous paragraph. 

Genesis 6:7 records God as saying, “I will 
destroy . . . both man and beast, and the 
creeping things, and the fowls of the air; 
for it repenteth me that I have made 
them.” This seems inconsistent with the 
generally accepted view of God, that He 
would repent about anything — or need 
to — since He could see in advance what 
the outcome of His creation would be. The 
word “them” seems to include the ani- 
mals as well as men; what could the 
animals possibly have done to merit God’s 
disgust? (D*) 

While it is perfectly true that God in 
His sovereign omniscience knows all 
things in advance, and that nothing 
that happens can ever come to Him as 
a surprise, yet it is a mistake to infer 
from this that He is incapable of emo- 
tion or reaction to the willful depravity 
of His creatures. The Scriptures never 
present Him as an impassive Being, in- 
capable of sorrow or wrath, but quite 
the contrary. This is because He is a 
God who cares, a God who loves and 
has a deep concern even for those un- 
grateful children of Adam who have 
mocked His gracious promises and 
have trifled with His mercy. 

The depth of corruption to which 
the human race had plunged by 
Noah’s time was utterly revolting to the 
God of holiness and justice, and He re- 
sponded to these disgusting excesses 
as His righteousness and purity de- 
manded. He was sorry He had created 
such an abominable generation of 
moral perverts as the antediluvian 
race had become. “And He repented” 
(Heb. wayyinnahem, the niphal of 
ndham ) is somewhat anthropomorphic 


80 


GENESIS 


(or anthropopathic) to be sure, for it 
serves to convey God’s response to sin 
after a human analogy (just as the 
Bible speaks of God’s having hands or 
eyes or a mouth, as if He had a body 
with physical parts and organs). 

Of course the element of surprise by 
the unexpected or unlooked for is im- 
possible for one who is omniscient, but 
His response to humanity was a neces- 
sary adjustment to the change in hu- 
manity’s feeling about Him. Because 
they had stubbornly rejected and 
flouted Him, it was necessary for Him 
to reject them. The shift in their at- 
titude required a corresponding shift 
in His attitude toward them, and it 
is this shift that is expressed by the 
Hebrew niham (“repent,” “be sorry 
about,” “change one’s mind about”). 

Similarly, in the time of Jonah, God 
is said to have repented {niham) of the 
judgment He had threatened to bring 
down on the city of Nineveh, because 
He observed the Ninevites’ sincere and 
earnest repentance after Jonah had 
preached to them. Their change in at- 
titude toward God made appropriate a 
change in His attitude toward them. 
Therefore, much to Jonah’s disgust, 
God allowed the forty days to elapse 
and withheld the blow of destruction 
He had threatened to bring on them. 
This shows that God may change His 
response from severity to leniency and 
mercy when people come to Him in 
repentance and with supplication. 

Yet when it comes to His announced 
covenant purposes toward His cove- 
nant people. God is indeed incapable of 
repentance — as Balaam points out in 
Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, 
that He should lie, nor a son of man, 
that He should repent; has He said, 
and will He not do it? Or has He spo- 
ken, and will He not make it good?” 
(nasb). The context here pertains to 
God’s steadfast purpose to bless Israel, 
despite all the machinations of King 
Balak of Moab, who tried to bribe the 
prophet of Yahweh to bring down a 


curse on the Hebrew nation. In such a 
situation God is indeed incapable of 
repentance. 

So far as the birds and the beasts 
were concerned, the context of Genesis 
6:7 says nothing about their displeas- 
ing or angering God; so it is not really 
justified to interpret the purpose of 
judgment as directed at them equally 
with the depraved race of men. It was 
simply an inevitable consequence of 
the coming Flood, that it should de- 
stroy not only mankind but also all 
brute creation living in man’s envi- 
ronment. The intended antecedent of 
"them” was really the preceding “man” 
(Heb. haadam ) — in the sense of the 
human race — rather than the various 
orders of bird and beast that are listed 
with man. Actually, God’s solicitude 
for the survival of all these various 
species of animal and bird found ex- 
pression in His command to Noah to 
preserve at least one pair of parents in 
order to propagate each species. 

How can Genesis 6:19 be reconciled with 
Genesis 7:2? 

Genesis 6:19 relates God’s command 
to Noah: "You are to bring into the ark 
two of all living creatures, male and 
female, to keep them alive with you” 
(niv). Genesis 7:2-3 records God’s 
additional instruction: "Take with you 
seven of every kind of clean animal, a 
male and its mate, and two of every 
kind of unclean animal, a male and its 
mate, and also seven of every kind of 
bird, male and female, to keep their 
various kinds alive throughout the 
earth.” Some have suggested that these 
diverse numbers, two and seven, in- 
volve some sort of contradiction and 
indicate conflicting traditions later 
combined by some redactor who didn’t 
notice the difference between the two. 

It seems strange that this point 
should ever have been raised, since the 
reason for having seven of the clean 
species is perfectly evident: they were 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


to be used for sacrificial worship after 
the Flood had receded (as indeed they 
were, according to Gen. 8:20: “Then 
Noah built an altar to the Lord and, 
taking some of all the clean animals 
and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt of- 
ferings on it”). Obviously if there had 
not been more than two of each of 
these clean species, they would have 
been rendered extinct by their being 
sacrificed on the altar. But in the case 
of the unclean animals and birds, a 
single pair would suffice, since they 
would not be needed for blood sac- 
rifice. 

Is a universal Flood consistent with 
geologic evidence? 

The biblical record in Genesis 7-8 
describes no local inundation confined 
to the Mesopotamian Valley (as some 
scholars have suggested) but a water 
level that surpassed the summits of the 
highest mountains. Genesis 7:19 states: 
“And the water prevailed more and 
more upon the earth, so that all the 
high mountains everywhere under the 
heavens [lit., ‘which were under all the 
heavens’ or ‘under the whole sky’] were 
covered” (nasb, italics mine). Verse 20 
then indicates that the water level rose 
even fifteen cubits higher than that 
(fifteen cubits being about thirty feet). 

Now the most elementary knowl- 
edge of physical law leads to the obser- 
vation that water seeks its own level. A 
great tidal wave may temporarily reach 
a greater altitude than the general sea 
level, but the episode here described 
lasted for about a year; and there is 
therefore far more involved here than 
a temporary surge. If the water level 
rose thirty thousand feet so as to sub- 
merge the peak of Mount Everest, the 
w'orld’s tallest mountain, it must have 
reached that level everywhere else on 
earth. Even the overtopping of Mount 
Ararat, the resting place of Noah’s ark, 
required a level well in excess of seven- 
teen thousand feet. Water rising to such 


an altitude would certainly engulf the 
entire surface of the planet, except for 
the highest peaks of the Andes and 
Himalayas, plus a few in North America 
and Africa. Therefore we must con- 
clude that the Flood was indeed univer- 
sal, or else that the biblical record was 
grievously in error. While it is doubtless 
true that mountain uplift is still going 
on, in North America, at any rate, even 
the reduction of a few thousand feet in 
the altitude of ranges so lofty as the 
Andes and Himalayas would not have 
substantially changed the necessity of 
worldwide distribution of the Flood 
waters. 

The question of geological evidence 
is very much debated by geologists, ac- 
cording to the position they take to- 
ward the validity of the biblical record. 
Some Christian geologists feel that 
some of the major seismic disturbances 
indicated in various parts of the globe 
at the Cenozoic levels are best ex- 
plained as triggered by the Flood (cf. 
Gen. 7:11: “On the same day all the 
fountains of the great deep burst 
open”). Some of the strata containing 
large boulders in the midst of coarse 
gravel are plausibly attributed to 
violent tidal movements and water agi- 
tation beyond anything known at the 
present time. But perhaps the most 
striking evidences of the violence of 
the Deluge throughout the earth are to 
be found in the amazing profusion of 
Pleistocene or Recent animals whose 
bones have been discovered in a 
violently separated state in several os- 
siferous fissures that have been exca- 
vated in various locations in Europe 
and North America. 

Rehwinkel (The Flood) indicates that 
these fissures occur even in hills of 
considerable height, and they extend 
to a depth of anywhere from 140 feet 
to 300 feet. Since no skeleton is com- 
plete, it is safe to conclude that none of 
these animals (mammoths, bears, 
wolves, oxen, hyenas, rhinoceros, au- 
rochs, deer, and many smaller mam- 


82 


GENESIS 


mals) fell into these fissures alive, nor 
were they rolled there by streams. Yet 
because of the calcite cementing of 
these heterogeneous bones together, 
they must necessarily have been depos- 
ited under water. Such fissures have 
been discovered in Odessa by the Black 
Sea, in the island of Kythera off the 
Peloponnesus, in the island of Malta, 
in the Rock of Gibraltar, and even at 
Agate Springs, Nebraska (which was 
excavated in 1876 over a ten-acre 
area). 

Such geologic evidence is of decisive 
importance, even though it is seldom 
mentioned by scientists who reject the 
accuracy of Scripture. This is just 
exactly the kind of evidence that a 
brief but violent episode of this sort 
would be expected to show within the 
short span of one year. Of course there 
would be little sedimentary precipita- 
tion possible for such a short period of 
time. There are some negative evi- 
dences, to be sure, such as the cones of 
loose scoria and ashes from volcanoes 
in the region of Auvergne, France, 
which are alleged to be thousands of 
years older than the supposed date of 
the Flood. But until it is decisively pro- 
ven that these volcanoes were an- 
tediluvian (the actual date of the Flood 
has not been precisely determined yet), 
and until it is demonstrated by a year’s 
submergence under brackish water 
that such volcanic formations would 
show striking changes in appearance 
perceptible to the modern investigator, 
it seems premature to affirm that this 
type of evidence is even more compel- 
ling than that of the above-mentioned 
ossiferous fissures, which so definitely 
testify to the type of Deluge described 
in Genesis 7. 

One notable feature of the biblical 
account sets it off from all other Flood 
narratives discoverable among other 
nations. Flood sagas have been pre- 
served among the most diverse tribes 
and nations all over the world: the 
Babylonians (who called their Noah by 


the name of Utnapishtim), the Sumer- 
ians with their Ziusidru, the Greeks 
with their Deucalion, the Hindus with 
their Manu, the Chinese with their 
Fah-he, the Hawaiians with their Nu-u, 
the Mexican Indians with their Tezpi, 
the Algonquins with their Manabozho. 
All these relate how this lone survivor 
(with perhaps his wife, children, and a 
friend or two) was saved from the de- 
struction of a universal flood and was 
then faced with the task of repopulat- 
ing a devastated earth after the flood 
waters had receded. But of all these 
accounts, only the Genesis record indi- 
cates with the exactitude of a diary or 
ship’s log the date of the inception of 
the Deluge (when Noah was exactly 
600 years old, on the seventeenth day 
of the seventh month of that same 
year), the length of the actual 
downpour (40 days), the length of time 
that the water-depth remained at its 
maximum ( 1 50 days), the date at which 
the tops of the mountains became 
visible once more (on the first day of 
the tenth month), the length of time 
until the first evidence of new plant 
growth was brought to Noah in the 
beak of his dove (47 days, according to 
Gen. 8:6-9), and the precise day of 
Noah’s emerging from the ark on 
Mount Ararat (his 601st year, the first 
day of the first month). Here we have a 
personal record that apparently goes 
back to Noah himself. 

The Babylonian account contains 
vivid details of how Utnapishtim built 
his ark, but there is no suggestion of 
a specific date. Like most legends 
handed down orally across the cen- 
turies or millennia, the Gilgamesh Epic 
(Tablet 1 1) fails to say anything at all 
about the year, even though the 
friendly sun-god, Shamash, had 
warned of the precise day when the 
prospective survivors would have to 
board their ark. It would seem that this 
Babylonian account is substantially 
closer to the Genesis record than any 
of the other Flood stories. Thus a 


83 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF 

friendly god warns the hero in advance 
and orders him to build an ark, to save 
not only his own family but also repre- 
sentative animals. That ark finally 
grounds on a mountain named Nisir 
(in the Zagros Range, northeast of 
Babylon); and Utnapishtim sends out a 
dove, a swallow, and a raven to bring 
back a report of conditions outside. 
Then finally he emerged with his fam- 
ily to offer sacrifice to the now- 
famished gods (who had been without 
altar-food for the weeks while the 
Flood was covering the earth). 

Some comparative religionists have 
suggested that the Babylonian myth 
was earlier than the Hebrew, and that 
the compilers of Genesis 7 and 8 bor- 
rowed from it. But this is rendered 
most unlikely in view of the significant 
contrasts between the two. Thus, the 
ark built by Utnapishtim was com- 
pletely cubic, equipped with six decks 
for ali the animals to be quartered in. 
A more impractical and unseaworthy 
craft could hardly be imagined. But 
Noah’s ark was three hundred cubits 
long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits 
deep — an ideal set of measurements 
for an ocean liner. If the cubit mea- 
sured twenty-four inches in that earlier 
period (as it may well have done in an 
age when men were bigger than they 
were after the Flood — cf. Gen. 6:4), 
then the ark of Noah would have been 
six hundred feet long, by one hundred 
feet wide, and sixty feet deep. If it was 
fairly boxlike in shape (as would be 
probable in view of its special pur- 
pose), it would have had a capacity of 
3.6 million cubic feet. This is the capac- 
ity of about two thousand cattle cars, 
each of which can carry 18 to 20 cattle, 
60 to 80 hogs, or 80 to 100 sheep. 

At the present time, there are only 
290 main species of land animals 
larger in size than sheep. There are 
757 more species ranging in size from 
sheep to rats, and there are 1,358 
species smaller than rats. Two indi- 
viduals of each of these species would 


BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

fit very comfortably into two thousand 
cattle cars, with plenty of room for 
fodder. But it is more than doubtful 
whether the same could be said of Ut- 
napishtim’s unwieldy craft, subject to 
frequent capsizing in heavy seas, in 
view of its cubic shape. Moreover, 
the stark contrast between the quar- 
relsome and greedy gods of the Bab- 
ylonian pantheon and the majestic 
holiness of Yahweh, the absolute Sov- 
ereign over the universe, furnishes 
the strongest basis for classifying the 
Gilgamesh account as a garbled, 
polytheistic derivative from the same 
original episode as that contained in 
Genesis 7-8. The Hebrew account is 
couched in terms of sober history and 
accurate recording that reflect a source 
derived from the persons who were ac- 
tually involved in this adventure. The 
Gilgamesh Epic is far more mythical 
and vague. 

For readers who wish to do more ex- 
tensive reading on the worldwide 
spread of the Flood saga, see James 
Frazer, Folklore in the Old Testament, vol. 
1 (London: Macmillan & Co., 1918) or 
Richard Andree’s more compendious 
work, Die Flulsagen ethnographisch he- 
ir achtet (Brunswick, 1891). For the 
Babylonian Flood epic, see Alexander 
Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Tes- 
tament Parallels, 2d ed. (Chicago: Uni- 
versity of Chicago, 1949). 

Are Christians still forbidden to eat 
blood? 

After the Flood, the Lord renewed 
His covenant with Noah and gave him 
certain basic guidelines for the order- 
ing of postdiluvian society (Gen. 9:1- 
16). Verse 4 has this important prohi- 
bition: “You shall not eat flesh with its 
life [nepes], that is, its blood” (nasb). 
The special sanctity of the blood leads 
to a command for the capital punish- 
ment of any and all who commit mur- 
der. Later, in Leviticus 17:10-11, the 
reason for avoiding blood as food is 


84 


GENESIS 


spelled out more clearly: “Any man 
from the house of Israel, or from the 
aliens who sojourn among them, who 
eats any blood, I will set My face 
against that person who eats blood, 
and will cut him off from among his 
people. For the life [nepes] of the flesh 
is in the blood, and I have given it to 
you on the altar to make atonement for 
your souls; for it is the blood by reason 
of the life that makes atonement” 
(nasb). The following verses go on to 
specify that even wild game must be 
completely bled before it may be eaten. 

The question confronting believers 
in this New Testament era is whether 
this prohibition pertains to us today. 
The revelation granted to Peter in Acts 
10:10-15 taught him that the ancient 
restrictions of the Mosaic Law concern- 
ing forbidden items of food were no 
longer to be observed. All the quad- 
rapeds, crawling creatures, and birds 
were to be considered clean and fit for 
human consumption. The important 
factor here was the application of this 
principle by analogy to all the races of 
mankind, both Jew and Gentile — all of 
them were rendered suitable for salva- 
tion and grace through the shed blood 
of Jesus. The question remains, how- 
ever, whether this removal of the 
categories of unclean food set forth in 
such detail in Leviticus 11:1-45 and 
Deuteronomy 14:3-21 actually lifts the 
restriction against the consumption of 
blood. Now that Christ has shed His 
sacred blood, does this remove all sanc- 
tity from blood as such? Or is it still to 
be honored as precious because of its 
symbolism of Calvary? In other words, 
does permission to eat all animals and 
birds without discrimination involve a 
license to eat the blood of these ani- 
mals? Or should they first be properly 
bled by the butcher before being 
cooked and prepared for human con- 
sumption? 

The anwer to that last question 
seems to be yes. Some years after Peter 
had received God’s special instruction 


through his dream, the Jerusalem 
Council was held in order to consider 
whether the Gentile converts should be 
required to adopt the ceremonial re- 
quirements of Judaism in order to be- 
come Christians. As president of the 
council, James stated: “Therefore it is 
my judgment that we do not trouble 
those who are turning to God from 
among the Gentiles, but that we write 
to them that they abstain [1] from 
things contaminated by idols and [2] 
from fornication and [3] from what is 
strangled and from blood” (Acts 
15:19-20, nasb). This found general 
approval by the rest of the assembly. 
So they decided on the following an- 
swer to the Gentile converts in Anti- 
och, Syria, and Cilicia: “For it seemed 
good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay 
upon you no greater burden that these 
essentials: that you abstain from things 
sacrificed to idols and from blood and 
from things strangled and from forni- 
cation; if you keep yourselves free 
from such things, you will do well” 
(Acts 15:28-29, nasb). 

From the above passage we gather 
(1) that this admonition to avoid eating 
blood came subsequent to Peter’s vi- 
sion and therefore was not in any way 
modified or abrogated by the earlier 
revelation in Acts 10; (2) that this was 
coupled with a prohibition against 
fornication — which can never be re- 
garded as an obsolete restriction but 
rather as an abiding principle binding 
on the conscience of all Christians; (3) 
that this insistence on the continuing 
sanctity of blood was decreed not only 
by men but by the authority of the 
Holy Spirit Himself. To be sure, some 
have inferred from Paul’s later discus- 
sion in 1 Corinthians 8 concerning 
meat offered to idols that the prohibi- 
tion contained in the letter of the 
Jerusalem Council was not really bind- 
ing for all time to come. But actually 
Paul’s objection centered not so much 
on the inherent sinfulness of eating 
such food but rather on the stum- 


85 


ENCYCLOPEDIA 

bling block such an example might 
furnish to newly converted pagans 
who had formerly sacrificed to idols. 

In 1 Corinthians 10:27-28 Paul en- 
larges on this matter, saying: “If one of 
the unbelievers invites you, and you 
wish to go, eat anything that is set be- 
fore you, without asking questions for 
conscience’ sake. But if anyone should 
say to you, ‘This is meat sacrificed to 
idols,’ do not eat it, for the sake of the 
one who informed you, and for con- 
science’ sake.” This implies that 
whether or not a believer might par- 
take in private of meat that had pre- 
viously been offered on an idolatrous 
altar, his use of it before others would 
lead to his causing them to stumble. 
Therefore it was still forbidden to 
the New Testament believer on the 
ground of the spiritual harm that it 
might do to recent Gentile converts. 
The implication seems very clear that 
we are still to respect the sanctity of the 
blood, since God has appointed it to be 
a symbol of the atoning blood of Jesus 
Christ. Therefore it is not to be con- 
sumed by any believer who wishes to 
be obedient to Scripture. 

Christ’s solemn statement in John 
6:53-58 concerning believers’ partak- 
ing of His flesh and blood by faith 
quite obviously refers only to the 
spiritual response of true believers in 
regard to the atoning sacrifice of 
Christ on Golgotha. We appropriate 
His body and blood by faith, together 
with all His saving benefits, as we trust 
wholly in His sinless life and in His of- 
fering of His innocent body as a vicari- 
ous atonement for our sins. But this 
has no bearing whatever on the ques- 
tion of whether we may disregard 
God’s earnest admonition not to par- 
take of physical blood as an item of 
food. 

In Genesis 9:24-28, why did Noah curse 
his youngest son and say that Canaan 
should be a slave? Was this the beginning 


OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

of slavery? Was slavery all right in the 
sight of God? (D*) 


The reason Noah cursed his son 
Ham was that he had derided and dis- 
honored his father after he found him 
naked, sleeping off a drunken stupor. 
Ham should have treated him respect- 
fully, even though his father (who had 
apparently never tasted liquor before) 
had made a fool of himself. But it 
should be carefully noted that only one 
of the sons of Ham, namely Canaan, 
was singled out lor suffering the ef- 
fects of Ham's curse. Genesis 9:25 
quotes Noah as saying, "Cursed be Ca- 
naan; a servant of servants [or ‘slave of 
slaves' — Heb. 'ebed badim ] he shall be 
to his brothers” (nasb). 

Ham had three sons besides Canaan, 
namely Cush, Mizraim, and Put (Gen. 
10:6); but the penalty was announced 
only for Canaan, the ancestor of the 
Canaanites of Palestine, rather than 
for Cush and Put, who were probably 
the ancestors of the Ethiopians and the 
black peoples of Africa. The fulfill- 
ment of this curse came about in 
Joshua’s conquest (ca. 1400 b.c..), and 
also in the conquest of Phoenicia and 
other Canaanites by the Persian Em- 
pire, since the Persians were de- 
scended, in all probability, from 
Japheth through Madai. This does 
seem to be the earliest occurrence of 
'ebed in the sense of “slave" that can be 
found in Scripture. 

As to the moral status of slavery in 
ancient times, it must be recognized 
that it was practiced by every ancient 
people of which we have any histor- 
ical record: Egyptians, Sumerians, 
Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, 
Syrians, Moabites, Ammonites, Edom- 
ites, Greeks, Romans, and all the 
rest. Slavery was as integral a part of 
ancient culture as commerce, taxation, 
or temple service. Not until the more 
exalted concept of man and his innate 


86 


GENESIS 


dignity as a person created in the 
image of God had permeated the 
world as a product of Bible teaching 
did a strong sentiment arise in Christ- 
endom in criticism of slavery and a 
questioning of its right to exist. No 
equivalent movement toward abolition 
is discernible in any non-Christian 
civilization of which we have any 
knowledge. 

In Genesis 9:25, ‘ebed is used in the 
sense of being politically in subjection 
to a foreign power. Hebrew slaves 
were required under the Mosaic law to 
be set free after six years of service; 
they could not be made to serve out 
their entire lives as slaves unless they 
willingly chose to remain so, out of love 
for their masters (Exod. 21:2-7). In 
some cases slaves were held in great 
honor; that is to say, the nobles were 
generally called “servants” (‘"badim) of 
their king — a title of honor, something 
like Paul’s reference to himself as a 
“bondslave of Jesus Christ.” 

In New Testament times slaves who 
became Christians were regarded as 
true brothers of the Christian f ree men 
and fellow heirs of the kingdom of 
God. They were bidden to serve their 
masters faithfully, respectfully, and 
with a right good will, as if they were 
serving the Lord Himself (Eph. 
6:5-8) — even though they should seek 
to earn or purchase their freedom 
whenever possible (1 Cor. 7:21). 

Yet there was inherent in the biblical 
concept of man as a person fashioned 
in the image of God and a candi- 
date for heaven (on condition of 
repentance, faith, and commitment 
to the Lord) a dynamic principle that 
undermined slavery. This principle 
found expression first in the Christian 
world and then in other religions and 
cultures, which were shamed by the 
Christian example into abolishing slav- 
ery within their own domains. Thus 
God’s ultimate purpose was brought to 
fruition. 


What was meant by Noah’s prophecy that 
Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem 
(Gen. 9:27)? 

The f ull statement by Noah was as 
follows: “May God enlarge Japheth,/ 
And let him dwell in the tents of 
Shem;/And let Canaan be his servant” 
(Gen. 9:27, nasb). This follows right on 
the heels of v.26, which indicates that 
the descendants of Canaan will serve as 
bondservants of both the Semites and 
the Indo-Europeans. This was ful- 
filled, in all probability, when in the 
330s b.c. Alexander the Great subdued 
the entire territory of the Persian Em- 
pire and added it to his extensive Euro- 
pean domains. As conqueror of the 
Phoenicians, Samaritans, Assyrians, 
and Babylonians, Alexander took over 
the reins of government through his 
special deputies and settled his veteran 
troops in various camps throughout 
the conquered territory. The empire 
he established endured for well over 
three centuries. In that sense, then, 
Japheth (ancestor of Javan or the 
Greeks) did “dwell in the tents of 
Shem.” 

Prior to Alexander’s conquest, of 
course, Canaan had been invaded and 
taken over by the armies of Joshua 
around 1400 b.c. In that sense, then, 
Canaan became the servant of Shem as 
well as of Japheth (in the time of the 
Alexandrian conquest). But if the an- 
tecedent of the ambiguous pronoun 
“his” in “And let Canaan be his ser- 
vant” is “Japheth” — as seems more 
likely — then this points forward par- 
ticularly to the subjugation of the en- 
tire area of Canaan, or Palestine, by 
the Greeks and Macedonians of Alex- 
ander’s army. Thus Canaan became 
the “servant” of Japheth. 

Genesis 10:5,20,31 seem to indicate that 
mankind spoke many tongues. But 
Genesis 11:1 affirms that “the whole earth 
was of one language, and of one speech.” 


87 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


How are these two statements to be recon- 
ciled? (D*) 

Genesis 10 describes the develop- 
ment of racial differentiation and dis- 
persion that went on after the Flood 
and Noah’s descendants began to re- 
populate the earth. This includes the 
entire process up to and including the 
third millennium b.c., just prior to the 
time of Abraham. 

After this general survey, the author 
of Genesis reverts to a pivotal episode 
that occurred early in this postdiluvial 
era, the confusion of tongues that fol- 
lowed the vain attempt to build the 
Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). This 
must have been within a very few cen- 
turies after the Flood. 

The various tribes that descended 
from Flam, Shem, and Japheth all 
spoke the same language (presumably 
that of Noah himself) but preserved 
their tribal distinction quite carefully. 
When God put an end to their arro- 
gant humanism and their “one-world” 
policy (adopted in a rebellious attempt 
to get along without any need for 
God), He confused their speech so that 
one tribe could not understand 
another any longer; and it became im- 
possible for them to continue with 
their collective project. 

We have no way of knowing whether 
the pre-Babel worldwide language was 
preserved in any of the subsequent 
tongues that sprang up after that de- 
bacle. (Some have suggested that He- 
brew may have been that original lan- 
guage and that we have the actual 
words of Adam, Eve, Cain, and so on, 
preserved in Gen. 3-4. But since He- 
brew is demonstrably a later dialect of 
Northwest Semitic, or of the Canaanite 
language group within that division, it 
seems unlikely that biblical Hebrew 
could have been the most primitive or 
original of all human languages.) 

We can only conjecture that within 
the various subtribes and clans the new 
language distribution or differentia- 


tion was not so utterly complete as to 
keep even blood relatives from under- 
standing one another. The fact that 
they continued to maintain their integ- 
rity according to their lineage strongly 
suggests that each of these smaller 
subdivisions was allowed a language 
mutually comprehensible to those 
within the clan, even after the confu- 
sion of tongues at Babel. 

If Genesis 11:28 places the origin of 
Abraham’s family in Ur of the Chaldees, 
why does Abraham in Genesis 24:4 locate 
his country and kinfolk in Haran? 

Abraham’s family originated in Ur 
but later migrated to Haran, which was 
located on the Belikh River, sixty miles 
from the Euphrates River, at the ex- 
treme north of the “Fertile Crescent.” 
The entire clan joined in the migra- 
tion, including Abram, Nahor, and Lot 
(the son of the deceased Nahor). 
Therefore they settled as a group in 
Padan Aram, of which Haran was the 
capital. There they all lived together 
for several decades, giving birth to 
children and rearing them in this Syr- 
ian setting. It is quite to be expected 
that Abraham would look back to the 
long sojourn in Haran as a second 
homeland from which he had mi- 
grated at the age of 75 (Gen. 12:4). It 
was also natural for him to refer to the 
children of his two older brothers as 
his “family” (moledet ) — even though 
there may have been more distant rela- 
tives still living back in Ur (cf. 12:1). 

Some have suggested that the Ur re- 
ferred to as the ancestral home of Ab- 
raham’s family may actually have been 
located much closer to Haran, up in 
the area of Padan Aram. There are 
references to “Uru” in the Eblaite tab- 
lets, according to G. Pettinato (“BAR 
Interviews Giovanni Pettinato,” Bib- 
lical Archaeology Review 6, no. 5 [ Sep - 
tember-October 1980]: 51), located 

in northern Mesopotamia. But “Uru” 
was simply a Sumerian or Akkadian 


88 


GENESIS 


term for “the city,” and as such it 
might be expected to occur in more 
than one region of Mesopotamia. 
Genesis 11:28 says very explicitly, 
however, that the Ur from which Ab- 
raham came was “Ur of the Chal- 
deans.” This Ur was located very near 
the shoreline of the Persian Gulf back 
in ancient times, almost one hundred 
miles northwest of the present coast. 
As such it was very susceptible to raids 
by the Chaldean corsairs from the 
nearby region of what is now called 
Kuwait. 

Just as the east coast of England fi- 
nally became known as Danelaw, be- 
cause of the increasing infiltration by 
Danish Vikings, so Ur became known 
as Ur Kasdim (by Moses’ time, at least, 
when Genesis was written), because of 
the establishment of a sphere of influ- 
ence there on the part of the Chal- 
deans. But there is no way that any 
Uru up in the vicinity of Haran would 
have become subject to a Chaldean 
hegemony, for the Chaldeans never 
penetrated to that part of the Near 
East. (The suggestion that this might 
have reflected the Kassites of the Kas- 
site dynasty in Babylon 1500-1200 b.c. 
has little to commend it. There was 
never any third radical d attached to 
the name Kassi.) 

How could God allow Abraham to enrich 
himself through lying? 

On two occasions (Gen. 12:10-20; 
20:1-18), Abraham passed off his wife 
Sarah as his sister in order to save him- 
self from getting killed. The first time 
he did so was when famine afflicted 
Canaan so severely that he felt he had 
to move to Egypt to survive (Gen. 
12:10). But as he approached that cor- 
rupt pagan land, he realized he would 
be at the mercy of a society that would 
not stop at murder to seize his beauti- 
ful wife for the king’s harem. Abraham 
felt sure they would kill him if they 
knew the truth about his marital status. 


He therefore persuaded Sarah herself 
to join with him in the lie, feeling that 
this was the only way his life could be 
spared. It was understandable enough 
that she complied with his request 
under those circumstances. Yet it was a 
sin on the part of both of them, and it 
robbed them of all possibility of wit- 
nessing to the truth of God before the 
idolatrous society of Egypt. 

Pharaoh’s agents did as Abraham 
had foreseen; they took Sarah to 
Pharaoh as a lovely addition to his 
harem (she was still beautiful after 
sixty-five!). But to Abraham’s embar- 
rassment the king bestowed lavish gifts 
on him and greatly increased his 
wealth — in servants, livestock, silver, 
and gold (Gen. 12:16; 13:2). Even 
after Pharaoh was stricken with a sud- 
den illness, as soon as Sarah entered 
his palace, and he was constrained to in- 
quire of his soothsayers the reason for 
his affliction, he was restrained from 
exacting vengeance on Abraham for 
his deception. Perhaps Pharaoh un- 
derstood the constraint that his visitor 
was under because of the likelihood of 
his being murdered for the sake of his 
wife. Pharaoh was also very uncom- 
fortable about being involved in the sin 
of adultery — which was sternly forbid- 
den even by the Egyptian religion (cf. 
Book of the Dead , chap. 125, sec. B 19, in 
Pritchard, ANET, p. 35, where the de- 
ceased has to aver that he has never 
committed adultery). Pharaoh was 
awed by the power of Abraham’s God, 
who could smite him so quickly that he 
could not take Sarah to his bed before 
he fell deathly sick. For these reasons 
he allowed Abraham to leave Egypt 
with all the handsome dowry he had 
bestowed on him as Sarah’s guardian. 

It seems quite clear that this account 
of Abraham’s failure is an honest in- 
clusion of his lack of faith as man- 
ifested by this entire episode. If he had 
not believed that Yahweh was able to 
protect him with honor and integrity if 
he went down to Egypt, then he should 


89 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


never have gone there at all. As it was, 
he brought dishonor on himself and 
the cause he stood for, discrediting 
himself before the moral standards of 
Egypt itself. As for his enrichment 
through Pharaoh’s generosity, there 
was a very definite sense in which the 
king was under obligation to pay 
amends for the wicked constraint that 
his corrupt society put on strangers 
who visited his land. When he found 
out the truth, he had to admit that Abra- 
ham had acted logically when he 
lied himself out of peril. Therefore it 
hardly follows that God was responsi- 
ble for Abraham’s increase in wealth; it 
was Pharaoh’s own doing, and he did 
not feel justified in demanding it back, 
even after he found out the truth. Abra- 
ham retained his added possessions 
as he returned to Canaan, the land 
God had promised to him. But it may 
well be that the subsequent years of 
agonizing delay (twenty or more until 
he was one hundred years old) were 
due in part to his failure and lack of 
faith in God’s protecting power, both 
in Egypt and (later on) in Gerar. 

Genesis 20 tells us how readily Abra- 
ham fell into the same subterfuge in 
Gerar, when he once again feared for 
his safety on account of his wife. As he 
later explained to Abimelech of Gerar, 
“I thought, surely there is no fear of 
God in this place; and they will kill me 
because of my wife” (v.ll, nasb). He 
then went on to explain that in point of 
fact Sarah was his half sister (v.12), 
even though she lived with him as his 
wife. But here again Abraham showed 
a lack of confidence in God’s power to 
preserve him from mortal danger and 
failed to uphold God’s honor before 
the eyes of the unbelieving world. 
Even though he was given a thousand 
shekels by way of atonement for 
Abimelech’s having taken Sarah into his 
palace, Abraham had to leave under a 
cloud of dishonor. Again we should 
observe that this account no more 
exonerates Abraham from his sin than 


did the similar adventure in Egypt. He 
came away from both failures with dis- 
honor and shame, and his influence on 
the Philistines was as nullified as it had 
been in the case of the Egyptians. 

Can Abraham’s defeat of the Mesopota- 
mian kings in Genesis 14 be historically 
trustworthy? 

While it is true that direct ar- 
chaeological confirmation of this excit- 
ing episode in Abraham’s career has 
not yet come to light, there are no valid 
scientific grounds for rejecting the ac- 
count in Genesis 14 as unhistorical. 
Apart from the documents from 
twentieth-century b.c. Ur, there is no 
extensive source of information re- 
garding this period apart from Genesis 
itself — at least so far as Mesopotamia is 
concerned. The name of Chedor- 
laomer, king of Elam, contains familiar 
Elamite components: kudur meant 
“servant,” and Lagamar was a high 
goddess in the Elamite pantheon. 
Kitchen ( Ancient Orient, p. 44) gener- 
ally prefers the vocalization Kutir in- 
stead of Kudur and gives the refer- 
ences for at least three Elamite royal 
names of this type. He equates Tid'al 
with a Hittite name, Tudkhaliya, at- 
tested from the nineteenth century b.c. 
As for Arioch, one king of Larsa (“El- 
lasar”) from this era was Eri-aku (“Ser- 
vant of the Moon-god”), whose name in 
Akkadian was Arad-Sin (with the same 
meaning). The Mari Tablets refer to 
persons by the name of Ariyuk. The 
cuneiform original of Amraphel, for- 
merly equated with Hammurabi of 
Babylon, is not demonstrable for the 
twentieth century (Hammurabi him- 
self dates from the eighteenth cen- 
tury), but there may possibly be a con- 
nection with Amorite names like 
Amud-pa-ila, according to H.B. Huff- 
mon (see Kitchen’s footnote on p. 44 
for documentation). 

All the above information has come 
to light since the heyday of the Docu- 


90 


GENESIS 


mentary Hypothesis, when learned 
scholars contemptuously dismissed 
this whole account as late and totally 
fictional. But even such notable ex- 
perts as H. Gunkel and W.F. Albright 
in our own century have concluded 
that Genesis 14 rests on authentic 
backgrounds in the history of the 
early second millennium b.c. In H.C. 
Alleman and E.E. Flack’s Old Testa- 
ment Commentary (Philadelphia: For- 
tress, 1954), p. 14, W.F. Albright re- 
marked: “In spite of our failure 
hitherto to fix the historical horizon of 
this chapter, we may be certain that its 
contents are very ancient. There are 
several words and expressions found 
nowhere else in the Bible and now 
known to belong to the second millen- 
nium. The names of the towns in 
Transjordania are also known to be 
very ancient.” It should be added that 
according to G. Pettinato, the leading 
epigraphist of the Ebla documents dat- 
ing from 2400-2250 b.c., mention is 
made in the Ebla tablets of Sodom 
(spelled Si-da-mu), Gomorrah (spelled 
in Sumerian cuneiform I-ma-ar), and 
Zoar ( Za-e-ar ). He feels that quite pos- 
sibly these may be the same cities men- 
tioned in the Abrahamic narrative (cf. 
“BAR Interviews Pettiuato,” p. 48). 

The authenticity of the background 
is established with a high degree of 
probability by the evidence just cited, 
even from the standpoint of objective 
scholarship — even apart from the ab- 
solute trustworthiness of Scripture, to 
which all true believers are committed 
as a matter of faith. But as to the credi- 
bility of the episode itself, it must be 
acknowledged that it was a most excep- 
tional feat of daring on the part of a 
peaceful nomad like Abraham, to at- 
tempt to rout a large invading force of 
professional soldiers like those of the 
Mesopotamian invaders. After their 
brilliant victory over the allied forces 
of the Sodomite confederacy (14:8 — 
10), the booty-laden conquerors should 
have made short work of Abraham’s 


3 1 8 henchmen and his meager force of 
Amorite allies, who could hardly have 
exceeded 1000 men in all. 

In normal daylight conditions, it 
would have been suicidal for Abra- 
ham’s forces to attack the Meso- 
potamian soldiers on any battlefield. 
But Abraham caught up to them by 
forced marches and fell on them bv 
night, when they were totally unpre- 
pared for combat. Dividing his forces 
up into several groups (Gen. 14:15), 
he apparently used a strategy some- 
what similar to that of Gideon — who 
routed an even greater army of Mid- 
ianites by the strategic use of only 
300 men (judg. 7:19-22). The secret 
of success, humanly speaking, was the 
inducement of panic among the 
heterogenous, polyglott forces of the 
invaders, who had no way of knowing 
how many attackers they had to face, 
and hardly knew which way to flee. 
But, of course, the real cause of victory 
was the miraculous power of God, who 
was pleased to give Abraham complete 
victory on this occasion — not only that 
he might rescue his nephew Lot, but 
also as a token of the ultimate triumph 
that Abraham’s descendants would 
achieve under the leadership of Joshua 
570 years later. 

Was Melchizedek a historical person or a 
mythical figure? 

The account in Genesis 14:18-20 
sounds like a straightforward historical 
episode, just as truly as the rest of the 
chapter. It tells us that there was a 
priest-king of Salem (that is, Jeru- 
salem, in all probability) named Mel- 
chizedek, who felt led to greet 
Abraham on his way back from the 
slaughter of the Mesopotamian invad- 
ers between Dan and Hobah (v. 15) and 
to furnish him with provisions for his 
battle- weary Fighting men. He also 
congratulated Abraham warmly for his 
heroic victory and bestow'ed a blessing 
on him in the name of "God Most 


91 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


High” {’El ‘Elyon ) — a title never ap- 
plied in Scripture to anyone else but 
Yahweh Himself. Obviously Mel- 
chizedek was a true believer, who had 
remained faithful to the worship of the 
one true God (just like Job and his four 
advisors in North Arabia; Jethro, 
Moses’ Midianite father-in-law; and 
Balaam, the prophet of Yahweh from 
Pethor in the Euphrates Valley). The 
testimony of Noah and his sons had 
evidently been maintained in other 
parts of the Middle East besides Ur 
and Haran. 

There was, however, one striking 
feature about the way Melchizedek was 
brought into this narrative: his parents 
are not mentioned, and there is no 
statement about his birth or death. 
The reason for this lack of information 
is made clear in Hebrews 7:3: “With- 
out father, without mother, without 
genealogy, having neither beginning 
of days nor end of life, but made like 
the Son of God, he abides a priest per- 
petually” (nasb). The context makes it 
clear that Melchizedek was brought on 
to the scene as a type of the Messiah, 
the Lord Jesus. In order to bring out 
this typical character of Melchizedek, 
the biblical record purposely omits all 
mention of his birth, parentage, or an- 
cestors. This is not to say that he had 
no father (for even the Antitype, Jesus 
of Nazareth, had the Holy Spirit as His 
Father — and certainly His mother, 
Mary, is mentioned in the Gospels) or 
that he had never been born (for even 
Jesus was in His human nature born 
on Christmas Eve). It was simply that 
his dramatic and sudden appearance 
was more clearly brought out by pre- 
senting him as God’s spokesman to 
Abraham, serving as a type of the fu- 
ture Christ, bestowing the divine bless- 
ing on the people of God. 

Melchizedek presented himself as a 
forerunner or type of the great High 
Priest, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill a 
priestly office far higher and more ef- 
ficacious than that of Aaron and the 


Levites. This was taught back in 
David’s time by Psalm 110:4, ad- 
dressed to the future Deliverer of Is- 
rael: “The Lord has sworn and will not 
change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest 
forever according to the order of Mel- 
chizedek’” (nasb). Hebrews 7:1-2 
points out the significant features in 
Melchizedek as a type of Christ: 

1. Melchi-sedeq actually means “King 
of Righteousness.” 

2. He was king of salem, which comes 
from the same root as salom, 
“peace.” 

3. He is presented without mention of 
birth, parentage, or genealogy, as 
befitted a type of the Son of God, 
the eternal God, without beginning 
and without end, who became in- 
carnate in Jesus of Nazareth. 

4. As a Priest forever after the “order 
of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4), Christ 
would carry on a priesthood that 
would completely supersede the 
priesthood of Aaron, established 
under the law of Moses, and which 
would endure forever because of 
the imperishable life of the High 
Priest Himself (Heb. 7:22-24). 

Despite the fanciful traditions main- 
tained by some of the rabbis (appear- 
ing even as early as the Qumran 
sect — cf. the Melchizedek Fragment 
from Cave 11) to the effect that Mel- 
chizedek was some kind of angel or 
supernatural being, the data of Scrip- 
ture itself points clearly to the historic- 
ity of this man as a king of Jerusalem 
back in the days of Abraham. The de- 
scription of Melchizedek in Hebrews 
7:3 as apator, ametur, agenealogetos 
(“without father, without mother, 
without genealogy”) cannot be in- 
tended to mean that Melchizedek 
never had any parents or any ancestral 
line, for Melchizedek was a type of 
Jesus Christ, of whom none of the 
three adjectives was literally true. 
Rather, this verse simply means that 


92 


GENESIS 


none of those items of information was 
included in the Genesis 14 account and 
that they were purposely omitted in 
order to lay the stress on the divine 
nature and imperishability of the Mes- 
siah, the Antitype. 

Why does the Bible use unscientific terms 
like “the going down of the sun” and “the 
four corners of the earth”? 

Evidences of prescientific inaccuracy 
have been found by some critics of bib- 
lical authority in such expressions as 
Genesis 15:17: “When the sun went 
down,” and Genesis 19:23: “The sun 
was risen upon the earth.” If that 
charge is just, then it equally applies to 
our century, for we still — even the sci- 
entists among us — employ the words 
“sunrise” and “sunset” in our daily 
speech, even though we are well aware 
that it is really the earth that rotates 
rather than the sun that revolves. This 
is a perfectly acceptable type of phe- 
nomenal terminology, employed by all 
languages at all periods of their his- 
tory. In fact the words for “east” and 
“west” in most of the Semitic languages 
are literally “place of rising” and “place 
of setting.” This type of argument is 
really quite puerile and betrays an 
amazing naivete on the part of the 
critic who raises it. 

The same is true of the modern 
myth that the Bible teaches that the 
earth is a rectangle rather than a globe 
because it employs the expression 
“four corners of the earth” (e.g., Isa. 
11:12). The word for “corners” is 
k e naf>bt, which means “wings,” i.e., 
wing-tips, such as one uses on compas- 
ses (even today!) to indicate the four 
directions: north, south, east, west. But 
as for the shape of the earth, Job 
22:14, Proverbs 8:27, and Isaiah 40:22 
all speak of the earth as a hug (“circle,” 
“disk,” or possibly even “sphere”). No 
one yet has come up with literal cor- 
ners on a circle, not an ancient He- 
brew — or a modern scientist! 


Why did God command circumcision in 
Genesis 17? 

Genesis 17 does not furnish any 
clear rationale for the establishment of 
this rite as mandatory for the family 
and descendants of Abraham. God 
simply says, “You shall be circum- 
cised . . . and it shall be a sign of the 
covenant between Me and you” (v.l 1). 
Any of Abraham’s people who refuse 
or willfully neglect circumcision are to 
be cut off from the covenant of grace 
altogether (v.14). Consequently cir- 
cumcision mattered a great deal to 
Yahweh, so far as the Hebrew nation 
was concerned. Romans 4:9-10 ex- 
plains that salvation was not depen- 
dent on circumcision but rather on the 
grace of God mediated to the guilty 
sinner through his acceptance and 
faith in the promises of God. God’s 
righteousness was reckoned to Abra- 
ham before he was circumcised (cf. 
Gen. 15:6; 17:23-24). But then the 
apostle goes on to explain the purposes 
of circumcision in Romans 4:11: “He 
received the sign of circumcision, a seal 
of the righteousness of the faith which 
he had while uncircumcised, that he 
might be the father of all who believe 
without being circumcised, that right- 
eousness might be reckoned to them” 
(nasb). 

The rite of circumcision (i.e., the 
surgical removal of the prepuce) was 
intended as a sign and a seal of the 
covenant relationship between God 
and the believer. Even as a wedding 
ring is a sign and seal of the total and 
exclusive commitment of the bride and 
the groom to each other so long as they 
both shall live, so the sacramental re- 
moval of this portion of the male organ 
was a blood-sealed testimonial that the 
believer had turned his life over to the 
Lord, with the commitment to live for 
Him and in dependence on His grace 
for the rest of his earthly life. As a seal 
the act of circumcision amounted to a 
stamp of ownership on the Old Testa- 


93 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


ment; it testified that he belonged not 
to the world, Satan, or self , but to the 
Lord Yahweh who had provided for 
his redemption. 

Further explanation of the function 
of circumcision is found in Colossians 
2:11-13: “And in Him you were also 
circumcised with a circumcision made 
without hands, in the removal of the 
body of the flesh by the circumcision of 
Christ; having been buried with Him 
in baptism, in which you were also 
raised up with Him through faith in 
the working of God, who raised Him 
from the dead. And when you were 
dead in your transgressions and the 
uncircumcision of your flesh, He made 
you alive together with Him, having 
forgiven us all our transgressions” 
(nasb). Three important insights con- 
cerning circumcision are included in 
these verses. 

1. Circumcision involved the symbolic 
removal of "the body of the flesh” 
as an instrument of unholiness; 
apart from circumcision, the body 
of the sinner remained in a state of 
“uncircumcision of his flesh.” 

2. Circumcision entailed a commit- 
ment to holiness. Moses urged his 
congregation in Deuteronomy 
10:16 (niv): “Circumcise your 
hearts, therefore, and do not be 
stiff-necked any longer.” This indi- 
cates that circumcision involved a 
commitment of heart to be holy 
unto the Lord and obedient to His 
word. (The opposite idea was 
stiffnecked ness or stubborn willf ul- 
ness on the part of the professing 
believer.) Leviticus 26:41 speaks of 
a future generation of Israelites 
taken off into captivity and prom- 
ises them forgiveness and restora- 
tion to their land “if their uncir- 
cumcised heart becomes humbled 
so that they then make amends for 
their iniquity” (nasb). Shortly be- 
fore the Babylonian captivity, the 
prophet Jeremiah (4:4) exhorted 


his countrymen — all of whom had 
doubtless been circumcised physi- 
cally as infants — “Circumcise your- 
selves to the Lord and remove the 
foreskins of your heart, men of 
Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, 
lest my wrath go out like fire . . . be- 
cause of the evil of your deeds. 
(nasb). Circumcision, then, involved 
a commitment to a holy life, a life of 
faith in God and of obedience to 
His commands. 

3. Circumcision represented to the 
Old Testament believer what bap- 
tism represents to the New Testa- 
ment believer: an acceptance or 
adoption into the family of the re- 
deemed. The benefits of Christ’s 
future atonement on Calvary were 
by God’s grace imparted to the cir- 
cumcised believer prior to the 
Cross, even as the merit of Christ’s 
atonement and the saving benefits 
of His resurrection victory are 
applied to the New Testament be- 
liever. In both dispensations the 
sacramental sign and seal was im- 
posed on the believer (and also on 
the infant children of believers for 
whom the covenant promises were 
claimed by faith). The same God 
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ 
commanded circumcision for the 
Old Testament believer and water 
baptism for the believer under the 
new covenant — which baptism con- 
stitutes spiritual circumcision, ac- 
cording to v. 1 1 . 

Were there Philistines in Palestine by 
Abraham’s time? 

Genesis 20 relates Abraham’s so- 
journ in Gerar, where he resorted to 
a lie about Sarah’s true relationship to 
him to safeguard himself against as- 
sasination, should the truth about their 
marital status be known. Chapter 21 
records the episode about Abraham’s 
securing property rights to the well of 
Beersheba; and then it is said, "So they 


94 


GENESIS 


made a covenant at Beersheba; and 
Abimelech and Phicol . . . returned to 
the land of the Philistines” (v.32). In 
Genesis 26: 1 we are told that Isaac 
“went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of 
the Philistines.” (We may safely assume 
that since there was an interval of over 
sixty years between chaps. 21 and 26 
[cf. 25:26], the Abimelech mentioned 
in 26:1 was a son or grandson of the 
older Abimelech and was named after 
him, a frequent custom among the 
Egyptian and Phoenician dynasties.) 

These references to Philistines be- 
fore 2050 b.c. (in the case of Abraham) 
have been rejected as impossible by 
many authorities. The Encyclopaedia 
Britannica (14th ed., s.v. "Philistia”) 
states categorically: “In Gen. 21:32,34 
and Ex. 13:17; 15:14; 23:31 the refer- 
ences to Philistia and the Philistines are 
anachronistic.” The ground for this as- 
sertion is found in the circumstance 
that up until now, at least, the earliest 
reference to Philistines in Egyptian 
records is found in the record of 
Ramses III concerning his victory over 
the “Sea Peoples” in a naval engage- 
ment fought in the Nile River in the 
1190s b.c. It is supposed that after the 
P-r-s-t (as Egyptian spelled their name) 
and their allies were thus repulsed by 
the doughty Pharaoh, they retreated 
to the southern coastal region of Pal- 
estine and settled there as a military 
colony on a permanent basis. But to 
conclude from the mere fact that the 
earliest extant reference to the Philis- 
tines in Egyptian records dates from the 
1190s constitutes any objective proof 
that there were no Philistine immi- 
grants from Crete there at any time 
previously is an irresponsible violation 
of logic. 

The Hebrew Scriptures constitute 
the most trustworthy of all archaeolog- 
ical documents (since they are invested 
with a divine trustworthiness from be- 
ginning to end); and they state very 
clearly that Philistines lived in Philistia 
as early as the twenty-first century b.c. 


They also affirm that the Philistine for- 
tresses that guarded the northern 
route from Egypt to Palestine were so 
formidable in the days of Moses (the 
1440s b.c.) that a circuitous southern 
route remained the safest for the Is- 
raelites to use in their journey toward 
the Promised Land (Exod. 13:17). Ob- 
viously this record composed by Moses 
was centuries earlier than that of 
Ramses III, and there is no reason to 
assume that the earlier a record is the 
less trustworthy it must be. (Until re- 
cent times a similar argument from 
silence was used by some critics to 
dismiss the references in Gen. 18-19 
to Sodom and Gomorrah as purely 
legendary and unhistorical. But now 
that the recently discovered Ebla tab- 
lets, dating from the twenty-fourth 
century b.c., contain references to 
both cities’ maintaining commercial re- 
lations with Ebla, this critical conten- 
tion is exposed as absurd. See G. Pet- 
tinato ["BAR Interviews Pettinato,” p. 
48], for Eblite references to Si-da-mu 
and I-ma-ar.) Once again the argument 
from silence is proven to be fallacious. 
The five main cities of the Philistines, 
or at least those that have been exca- 
vated, uniformly show occupation ex- 
tending back to Hyksos times and 
before. The earliest level uncovered at 
Ashdod is certainly seventeenth cen- 
tury b.c. (cf. H.F. Vos, Archaeology in 
Bible Lands [Chicago: Moody, 1977], p. 
146). Inscribed seals found at Gaza 
bear the names of Twelfth Dynasty 
Egyptian kings like Amenemhat III 
(ibid., p. 167). Hence there can be no 
doubt that this area was occupied by 
strong kingdoms back in the patriar- 
chal age. To be sure, their population 
may have been pre-Philistine, but 
there is absolutely no proof that such 
was the case. 

The southern coast of Palestine 
quite evidently became a favored re- 
gion for trade and even for permanent 
settlement, so far as the Cretan popu- 
lation was concerned. The Philistines 


95 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


are referred to in Scripture as belong- 
ing to various groups, such as the 
Kaphtorim, the Cherethites, and the 
Pelethites. The commercial activity of 
Minoan Crete is known to have been 
most extensive; and its mariners must 
have discovered even before Abra- 
ham’s time that the Philistine shore 
was blessed with an equable climate, 
rich soil, and a good rainfall for raising 
grain. They apparently migrated there 
in successive waves, more or less as the 
Danes kept migrating to the east coast 
of England over a period of several 
centuries until “Danelaw” was en- 
larged to cover all the region from the 
Scottish border to London itself. Mi- 
grations by the populations of a home- 
land across the sea are a frequent phe- 
nomenon throughout world history; so 
it surely should occasion no surprise 
that the Cretan emigrants continued 
their settlement activity over a period 
of several centuries, from before the 
time of Abraham until the unsuccess- 
ful naval expedition against Egypt in 
the early twelfth century. Therefore 
we conclude that there is no truly sci- 
entific evidence for classing the Philis- 
tine references in the Pentateuch as 
unhistorical or anachronistic. 

How could God condemn human sacrifice 
in Leviticus 18 and 20 and yet command it 
in Genesis 22, or at least accept it in 
Judges 11? 

It is a mistake to interpret Genesis 
22:2 as a command by God for Abra- 
ham to sacrifice his son Isaac on the 
altar. On the contrary, God actually 
(through His angel, at least) restrained 
Abraham’s hand just as he was about to 
plunge the knife into his son’s body, 
saying, “Do not stretch out your hand 
against the lad, and do nothing to him; 
for now I know that you fear God, 
since you have not withheld your son, 
your only son, from Me” (v.12, nasb). 
While it is true that the Lord instructed 
Abraham previously to present Isaac 
as a burnt offering (’ olah ), and Abra- 


ham himself undoubtedly under- 
stood it as a command to kill his son on 
the altar, the point at issue was 
whether the doting father was willing 
to surrender even his only son (begot- 
ten by Sarah) to the Lord as a proof of 
his complete surrender. But v.12 is 
conclusive proof that Yahweh had no 
intention that Abraham should actu- 
ally go through with this human sac- 
rifice. It was simply a test of his faith. 

As for the episode of Jephthah’s 
daughter in Judges 1 1, see the article 
that deals with that passage. There is 
good reason to believe that in her case 
also, as in Isaac’s (in both instances the 
term ‘olcih is used; cf. Judg. 11:31), the 
presentation did not eventuate in the 
death of the human "burnt offering." 
Rather, she was devoted to the service 
of the Lord as a virgin attendant in 
tabernacle worship for the rest of her 
life. 

Leviticus 18:21 defines infant sac- 
rifice as a profanation of the name of 
Yahweh, the God of Israel. Leviticus 
20:2 prescribes the dealth penalty for 
any parent who does so — particularly 
in the worship of Molech, which espe- 
cially featured infant sacrifice. It is log- 
ically indefensible to assume that God 
would expect or condone infant sac- 
rifice on the part of Abraham or 
Jephthah, or any other of His servants, 
after such a stern prohibition of it in 
the Mosaic Law. 

Is there archaeological evidence for Hit- 
tites living in southern Palestine in pa- 
triarchal times? 

Genesis 23 states that “the sons of 
Heth” were in control of Hebron back 
in Abraham's time. Five or six cen- 
turies later the twelve spies reported 
back to Moses and the Hebrew host 
(Num. 13:29) that there were Hittite 
settlements in the hill country of Ga- 
naan. But since the main center of Hit- 
tite power was in eastern Asia Minor 
and their capital was Hattusas 
(Boghazkoy), and since their first rise 


96 


GENESIS 


to prominence in the Near East came 
in the reign of Mursilis I (1620-1590 
b.c.), who sacked the great metropolis 
of Babylon around 1600, many 
modern scholars have questioned the 
historicity of Hittites in Palestine as 
early as 2050, when Sarah was buried 
in the cave of Machpelah. And yet ar- 
chaeological evidence also indicates 
that the Hittites occupied or brought 
into vassalage many of the kingdoms 
of Syria; and in the days of Ramses II 
of Egypt there was a major showdown 
with Muwatallis (1306-1282) of the 
Hittite New Kingdom, and a remark- 
able nonaggression pact was made be- 
tween the two superpowers, the text of 
which has been preserved both in 
Egyptian and in Hittite. The treaty line 
was drawn in such a way as to give 
northern Syria to the Hittites and 
southern Syria (plus all Palestine) to 
the Egyptian sphere of influence (cf. 
G. Steindorff and K.C. Seele, When 
Egypt Ruled the East [Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago, 1942], p. 251). 

More recent archaeological discov- 
eries have indicated further southward 
penetration than this line and an ear- 
lier stage of Hittite activity than that of 
the Old Kingdom and New Kingdom 
empires. Cuneiform mercantile tablets 
have been recovered from Kiiltepe 
(ancient Kanesh) in Cappadocia, left 
by early Assyrian merchants between 
1950 and 1850 b.c. (Vos, Archaeology, 
p. 314). But even before the arrival of 
the Indo-European-Anatolian immi- 
grants (the Nesili-speakers), there was 
an earlier race of Hattians of non- 
Indo-European background. These 
were subdued by invaders of 2300- 
2000 b.c., who subsequently adopted 
the name Hatti for themselves, despite 
the linguistic and cultural differences 
between them and their predecessors. 

O.R. Gurney, an eminent Hittite 
specialist, suggested that the original 
Hattians may have been much more 
widespread than in Asia Minor alone, 
and that they may even have set up 


colonies in regions as far south as 
Palestine (Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial 
Encyclopedia, 3:170). (Note that “Hatti” 
and “Hitti” would be written in the 
same consonants back in the b.c. era, 
and the vowels were supplied only by 
oral tradition.) In 1936 E. Forrer pro- 
posed on the basis of a Hittite text by 
King Mursilis II (ca. 1330 b.c.) that a 
Hittite group had migrated into Egyp- 
tian territory (i.e., regions of Syria- 
Palestine controlled by Egypt) earlier 
in the second millenium (cf. Encyclopae- 
dia Bntannica, 14th ed., s.v. “Hittites”; 
Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclope- 
dia, 3:169-170). 

Military penetration south of the 
Tarsus range began in the seventeenth 
century under Labarnas; Mursilis I 
succeeded in destroying Aleppo in 
Syria, and even ravaged Mari and 
plundered the Hurrians of the upper 
Euphrates. But the “Hittites” of 
Genesis may have had little in common 
with these Indo-European, Nesili- 
speaking conquerors, but rather may 
have come from the Hatti who histori- 
cally preceded them in Asia Minor. Lit- 
tle can be concluded from the names 
referred to in Genesis 23, for Ephron 
and Zohar appear to be Semitic, 
Ganaanite names — indicating an easy 
assimilation of the regional culture by 
these “Hittite” settlers in Hebron. 

The Hittites are referred to later on 
in Israelite history. In Joshua’s inva- 
sion they furnished resistance to his 
troops (Josh. 9:1-2; 11:3), but they 
were presumably crushed and annihi- 
lated by their Hebrew conquerors. Yet 
by the time of David there were some 
Hittites, at least, to furnish contingents 
for David’s army. Such was Uriah, the 
husband of Bathsheba, who was clearly 
a committed believer and a devoted 
worshiper of Yahweh (2 Sam. 11:11). 
Solomon found the Neo-Hittites to be 
of sufficient political importance to 
have some of their princesses in his 
harem ( 1 Kings 11:1). Later on, in the 
840s, Benhadad of Damascus led his 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


troops in precipitous flight from their 
siege of Samaria because of their fear 
that “the king of Israel has hired 
against us the kings of the Hittites” 
(2 Kings 7:6). 

During the earlier part of the first 
millennium b.c., various kings of 
northern Syria (whose territories had 
been part of the Hittite Empire in ear- 
lier centuries) bore names like 
Sapalulme (Suppiluliumas), Mutallu 
(Muwatallis), Lubarna (Labarnas), and 
Katuzili (Hattusilis). Hence they may 
have carried on something of the Hit- 
tite tradition, even though they had 
by now attained their independence. 
Among the “Neo-Hittite” principalities 
of Syria were Tuwana, Tunna, Hupis- 
na, Shinukhtu, and Ishtunda (Tenney, 
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 3 : 1 68). 
These names all appear in the cunei- 
form records (largely the Assyrian) of 
the time of the Hebrew divided mon- 
archy. 

Was Keturah Abraham’s second wife 
(Gen. 25:1) or merely his concubine (1 
Chron. 1:32)? 

Genesis 25:1 states that after Sarah’s 
death Abraham took to himself a wife 
{’issah) whose name was Keturah 
( Qfturah ). Verse 2 gives the names of 
six sons she bore to him in his old age. 
Abraham lost Sarah when she was 127, 
and when he was 137 (Gen. 23:1; cf. 
17:17). How soon after Sarah’s death 
Abraham married Keturah, we have 
no way of knowing; but the six sons she 
bore bim became ancestors of various 
Arabian tribes, and she is honored to 
this day by the Arab race as their an- 
cestral mother. 

There is really no discrepancy in 
1 Chronicles 1 :32, even though the term 
pileges is used there rather than 'issah. 
Genesis 25:6 also refers to Keturah by 
implication as a pileges to Abraham; for 
after v.5 has made it clear that God 
had confirmed Isaac, Sarah’s son, as 
his principal heir, v.6 records: “But to 


the sons of his concubines [the plural 
pilag e sim presumably includes Hagar 
as well as Keturah], Abraham gave 
gifts while he was still living, and sent 
them away from his son Isaac east- 
ward, to the land of the East” (nasb). 
Obviously the term pileges was used to 
indicate that although Keturah was the 
only lawfully wedded wife Abraham 
had (hence his ’issah) during this 
twilight period of his life, she had a 
secondary status in relationship to 
Sarah, since only Sarah had been cho- 
sen by God to be the mother of Isaac, 
Abraham’s only heir under the prom- 
ise of the covenant. As for pileges it- 
self, it was a non-Semitic term of un- 
known origin, but which seems to have 
had the basic meaning of “secondary 
wife” (Ludwig Koehler and Walter 
Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testa- 
ment Libros [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1958], 
p. 761). 

What concept of immortality is implied in 
“gathered to his people” (Gen. 25:8) and 
“slept with his fathers” (2 Kings 1 1:43)? Is 
there a connection with Jesus’ depicting 
the deceased Lazarus in Abraham’s 
bosom (Luke 16:22)? (D*) 

The expression “gathered to his 
people” clearly implies something 
more than the mere proximity of 
corpses in some common tomb-vault 
or graveyard. Abraham was conceived 
of as joining his deceased loved ones in 
some sort of fellowship or personal as- 
sociation. Since Israel’s neighbors all 
believed in the persistence of the soul 
after its departure from the body (so 
the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyp- 
tians, and Homeric Greeks), it would 
be very surprising indeed if the He- 
brews alone disbelieved in the con- 
scious existence of the soul after death. 
Highly significant in this connection is 
King David’s statement about the little 
son whose death had just been an- 
nounced to him (2 Sam. 12:23): “I shall 
go to him, but he shall not return to 


98 


GENESIS 


me.” In other words, David knew the 
infant’s life would not return to his 
body so that lie could resume his exis- 
tence among the living. But David fully 
expected that he would go to join that 
little child after he himself passed 
away. 

Again, “go to him” does not imply 
mere physical nearness to the deceased 
in their tombs. Asaph, David’s con- 
temporary, affirmed in Psalm 73:24 
the following: “Thou shalt guide me 
[O God] with thy counsel, and after- 
ward receive me to glory” — which 
seems to mean the glorious presence of 
God in heaven. There is a similar im- 
plication in Psalm 49: 15: “But God will 
redeem my soul from the power of 
Sheol, for He shall receive me.” One 
thinks of Enoch, who after three 
hundred years of fellowship with the 
Lord was taken (the same verb laqah is 
used in both passages) from this life, 
without leaving his body behind. 

The expression “slept with his 
fathers” (1 Kings 1 1:43), which occurs 
quite frequently in connection with 
royal obituaries, seems to refer to the 
status of the believer’s body as it awaits 
revivification in the grave — much like 
the term “fall asleep" is used occasion- 
ally in the New Testament of deceased 
believers. This expression contained 
within it a happy expectation that the 
dead body would someday be awak- 
ened once more. Isaiah 26:19 states: 
“Your dead will live; their corpses will 
rise. You who lie in the dust, awake 
and shout for joy, for your dew is as 
the dew of the dawn, and the earth will 
give birth to the departed spirits” 
(nasb). 

In the light of the story of Lazarus 
and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), 
there can be little doubt that Jesus be- 
lieved that the souls of both the wicked 
and the just lived on in the life beyond 
and that the humble believer like 
Lazarus went to a place of blessed com- 
fort and rest where Abraham was. 
Thus our Lord confirmed the trust of 


the Old Testament saints, who af- 
firmed, “In thy presence is fulness of 
joy; at thy right hand there are pleas- 
ures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11), which 
follows that great resurrection verse: 
“Lor thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; 
neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy 
One to see corruption” (v.10). 

How many wives did Esau have, and who 
were they? 

Genesis 26:34 tells us that at the age 
of forty, Esau married two Hittite 
women — Judith, daughter of Beeri, and 
Basemath, daughter of Elon. Since 
Genesis 36 does not mention Judith at 
all, we can only conclude that she bore 
Esau no children; whether she was 
barren or died young is uncertain. 
Nevertheless, Judith was wife number 
one. 

Wife number two was, as stated 
above, Basematb. But since Genesis 36 
refers to her as Adah, it would seem 
that she bore that name as well. 
(Examples of men and women bearing 
more than one name are quite numer- 
ous in the Old Testament, both among 
Israelites and among Gentiles.) Since 
Esau later married a daughter of his 
uncle Ishmael, who was likewise named 
Basemath (apparently a common 
name in the Edomite region back in 
those days; Solomon also gave that 
name to one of his daughters [1 Kings 
4:15]), it became expedient to call the 
former Basemath by her other name, 
Adah. She bore him one son, Eliphaz 
(36:4). 

Wife number three was Oholi- 
bamah, daughter of Zibeon, a Hivite. 
We are given no information as to 
when he married her or under what 
circumstances. We only know that her 
father’s name was Anah, the son of 
Zibeon. (Zibeon was therefore her 
grandfather rather than her father — 
as one might have gathered from 
Genesis 26:34. Hebrew has no tech- 
nical term for grandparents or grand- 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


children; it simply uses the terms for 
“father” or “mother” for grandparent 
and “son” or “daughter" for grand- 
child.) Presumably Esau married Oho- 
libamah before he married Ishmael’s 
daughter Basemath. By Oholibamah 
Esau had three sons; Jesuh, Jalam, 
and Korah — in that order. 

Wife number four was Basemath, 
daughter of Ishmael, who bore him 
just one son, Reuel ( R e 'u’el , probably 
pronounced “Raguel” — the same 
name as that of Jethro, Moses’ father- 
in-law [cf. Exod. 2; 18; Num. 10:29]). It 
should be added that this Basemath 
also had a second name: Mahalath (cf. 
Gen. 28:9). But apparently she (or 
Esau) preferred Basemath (with its 
fragrant connotation, in the masculine 
form bosem, of “balsam”), for so she is 
always referred to in Genesis 36. 

This, then, constitutes the full list of 
Esau’s wives and the sons they bore to 
him. Esau is also referred to in Genesis 
36 as “the father of Edom” (vv.9,43), 
but in this case “father of” is equivalent 
to “founder of” — just as Jacob was the 
founder of the nation Israel. 

Perhaps it is worth noting that the 
recurrence of favorite or fashionable 
names is reflected throughout Genesis 
36 as characteristic of that Horite- 
Hivite culture into which Esau married 
down in the Edomite region. There 
are at least five examples of this, in- 
cluding the two wives named Base- 
math just mentioned. 

First is Anah, the son of Zibeon, 
mentioned above as the father of 
Oholibamah. The Masoretic text actu- 
ally reads bat (“daughter of”) both in 
36:2 and 36: 14. But this appears to be 
a scribal error for ben (“son of”), be- 
cause all the other parents referred to 
in these genealogical chains are always 
male rather than female (perhaps the 
scribal abbreviation for B-N [ben] was 
so close to B-T [bat] as to be confus- 
ing). It is highly significant that the 
Samaritan Hebrew text here does read 
B-N (“son of”) rather than B-T 


(“daughter of”), and the Greek Sep- 
tuagint (LXX) and Syriac Peshitta do 
the same. We note also that in v.24 a 
son of Zibeon son of Seir (v.20) was 
given the name Anah. While it is not 
uncommon for a nephew to be named 
after his uncle (which is what Anah son 
of Zibeon the Hivite would be to him), 
it is most unusual for a nephew to be 
named after his aunt. Therefore we 
conclude that the older Anah was in- 
deed male rather than a female. 

Second, the name Zibeon, as just 
noted above, was originally borne by 
the grandfather of Oholibamah, the 
wife of Esau. So far as we know, there 
was no blood relationship between Zi- 
beon the son of Seir the Horite and 
Zibeon the Hivite, except by a distant 
in-law relationship, perhaps, through 
their common connection to Esau 
through marriage. 

Third, the name Oholibamah was 
borne not only by the daughter of 
Anah who married Esau but also by a 
daughter of the younger (nephew) 
Anah (36:25). These were names that 
tended to recur in the same family line. 

Fourth, the name of Timna was 
borne by the daughter of Seir who be- 
came a concubine to Eliphaz, the son 
of Esau by Basemath-Adah (36:12,22). 
It was also the name of a descendant of 
Esau whose paternity is not given but 
who is listed as a “chieftain” of Edom 
in a later generation (36:40). In this 
case, then, a male descendant was 
given the same name as a related 
female of an earlier century. Another 
remarkable example of this was a later 
chieftain of Edom named Oholibamah 
(v.41). This last example is all the more 
remarkable since it ends with the 
feminine -ah, which is not often to be 
found in a man’s name. (The numer- 
ous masculine names ending in -iah — 
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, etc. — are 
not feminine endings at all but a short- 
ened form of Yahweh, the covenant 
name of God.) 

One other pair of names is nearly 


100 


GENESIS 


identical: Dishon and Dishan (36:21). 
Names that end in -an in Aramaic, 
Arabic, or Akkadian generally appear 
as -on (by the so-called Canaanite shift, 
which tended to round off an original 
long a as an 6 in Hebrew and the other 
Canaanite dialects). Seir seems to have 
had a great fondness for this name 
pattern and hence used it on two dif- 
ferent sons of his with a mere dif- 
ference in the final vowel. 

When was Rachel given to Jacob — after 
Leah’s bridal week or after the fourteen- 
year contract with Laban had been com- 
pleted? (D*) 

From Genesis 29:27 it seems quite 
clear that Rachel was given to Jacob 
seven or eight days after his marriage 
to Leah: “Complete the bridal week of 
this one,” Laban said to Jacob, “and we 
will give you the other also for the ser- 
vice which you shall serve with me for 
another seven years (nasb). It is true 
that the word rendered “bridal week” 
literally means only “week” (or even 
“heptad”); yet it is also true that apart 
from Daniel 9:24-27, it is not demon- 
strable that this word ever means any- 
thing other than a week of days in the 
Old Testament. 

The subsequent narrative strongly 
suggests (in Gen. 30) that the two sis- 
ters were competing with each other 
simultaneously in the matter of 
childbearing, and that Leah was carry- 
ing off all the honors in this context, 
until finally, after years of trying, 
Rachel gave birth to Joseph. Not until 
after that event is mention made of the 
final period during which Jacob 
worked to earn livestock rather than 
wives (Gen. 30:25-32; 31:38). 

How could God bless the conduct of Jacob 
and the lying of Rachel (Gen. 31)? 

The evidence is very slight indeed 
that God “blessed the lying of Rachel.” 
As a matter of fact, she did not live a 


very long time after the episode at 
Gilead but died at childbirth, while 
being delivered of her second child, 
Benjamin (Gen. 35: 16-19). This could 
have allowed her only a few years of 
life after her useless and pointless theft 
of her father’s household idols — which 
must have ended up with all the other 
idols carried about by Jacob’s house- 
hold, under the oak tree near Shechem 
(v.4). 

As for the “conduct of Jacob,” God 
continued to bless him, despite his de- 
vious and crafty ways, because He saw 
in him the makings of a true man of 
faith. It was only God’s own provi- 
dence that enabled Jacob to overcome 
the devious deceptions practiced on 
him by Laban, who foisted his eldest 
daughter on him (probably after mak- 
ing him so drunk that by the time he 
got to bed he could not tell one woman 
from another) instead of giving him 
the girl he really loved. After fourteen 
years Laban had left his son-in-law 
penniless, and had entered into an 
agreement about wages during Jacob’s 
final six or seven years with him — with 
the hope and expectation of over- 
reaching him and keeping him poor. 
As Jacob said to Laban, in their con- 
frontation at Gilead: "I served you 
fourteen years for your two daughters, 
and six years for your flock, and you 
changed my wages ten times. If the 
God of my father . . . had not been for 
me, surely now you would have sent 
me away empty-handed” (Gen. 31:41- 
42, nasb). 

Jacob was not simply expressing his 
own viewpoint. Genesis 31:12 records 
the statement of God’s angel: “I have 
seen all that Laban has been doing to 
you” (nasb). It is clear from the follow- 
ing verses that Jacob’s use of striped 
branches to induce controlled breed- 
ing among the sheep was prepared by 
God and made effectual for the pur- 
pose in the interests of fairness and 
justice. It is true that in this case the 
overreacher, Laban, was himself over- 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


reached through the wise maneuvers 
of Jacob, who finally learned how to 
cope with him. Only in this way could 
Jacob have built up an estate and thus 
had wealth to transfer to his ancestral 
home when he and his family could fi- 
nally get away from Padan Aram and 
settle at last in Palestine. 

Laban’s complaint that Jacob acted 
unfairly by not telling him he was 
planning to leave, thus denying him a 
chance to stage a farewell banquet, 
could hardly have expressed his true 
intention. He loudly protested that he 
was kindly disposed toward them all 
and would have given them a royal 
sendoff, but there is no evidence what- 
ever that he would have done so. On 
the contrary, Jacob had good reason to 
fear him and to keep his intended de- 
parture a carefully guarded secret; 
thus Jacob said to him, “Because I was 
afraid, for I said, ‘Lest you would take 
your daughters from me by force’” 
(Gen. 31:31, nasb). There is no reason 
to doubt that he would have done so, 
for vv. 1 -2 make it clear that Laban had 
developed considerable suspicion and 
hostility toward Jacob because of the 
attrition of his livestock. It was sheer 
hypocrisy for him to claim that he 
would have granted them a gracious 
dismissal. 

To sum the matter up, it is true that 
Jacob never notified his father-in-law 
about his intended departure; and in 
that sense Jacob deceived Laban the 
Syrian, by not telling him that he was 
fleeing. Nevertheless he told no overt 
lie, so far as the biblical record goes; 
and he withheld information concern- 
ing his imminent departure only be- 
cause he was positive that Laban would 
never let him go voluntarily. He would 
have been sure to compel him to re- 
main with him even after tensions and 
hostilities had arisen between Jacob 
and Laban’s sons (Gen. 31:1) and the 
atmosphere had become too tense for 
Jacob to remain there in safety and 
harmony. The withholding of infor- 


mation is not quite the same thing as 
lying. (Jesus certainly committed no sin 
by choosing to remain silent in front of 
Herod Antipas in Jerusalem [Luke 
23:9]. In that sense He withheld in- 
formation from Herod, information 
Herod would have appreciated.) The 
unusual circumstances dictated to 
Jacob the wisdom of departure without 
prior notification; otherwise they 
never could have gotten away, and 
God’s promise to Jacob in Genesis 
28: 15 would have failed of fulfillment. 
Therefore the answer to the question 
“How could God bless the conduct of 
Jacob?” is “Because God is just and 
faithful to His children, even His less- 
than-perfect children.” 

Why is Genesis 31:49 referred to as the 
Mizpah “benediction”? Was it really in- 
tended as a blessing; or was it an expres- 
sion of mistrust between Laban and Jacob, 
involving an appeal to God to ensure that 
both parties kept their agreement with 
each other? (D*) 

A careful reading of Genesis 
31:22-48 indicates the following back- 
ground to this remarkable verse: “The 
Lord watch between me and thee, 
when we are absent one from 
another.” Laban had caught up to 
Jacob after he had surreptitiously fled 
from Padan-aram, and he rebuked 
Jacob for leaving without giving him a 
chance even to say goodby to his 
daughters, Leah and Rachel. Laban 
then made a thorough but unsuccess- 
ful search for his missing teraphim 
(idols or family gods), which actually 
had been stolen by Rachel. Jacob, un- 
aware of this theft, then proceeded to 
rebuke his father-in-law sternly, recall- 
ing how many times Laban had tried to 
cheat him in the years gone by, con- 
tinually changing the employment 
contract in his own (Laban’s) favor. 

The result was a stand-off between 
the two; so they decided to erect a pile 
of rocks as a witness to a new compact 


102 


GENESIS 


of mutual nonaggression. Laban gave 
it the Aramaic name of “Jegar- 
sahadutha” (rockpile of witness); and 
Jacob gave it the Hebrew equivalent 
“Galeed” (Gilead). They also called it 
“Mizpah” (watchtower), saying, “The 
Lord watch [a form of the verb sapah, 
from which the term mispah is derived] 
between me and thee, when we are ab- 
sent from one another.” This served as 
a testimony that neither Laban nor 
Jacob would pass beyond this bound- 
ary marker with intent to do the other 
any harm (Gen. 31:52). 

Since the two sons of Jacob — Ephraim and 
Manasseh — were listed with the twelve 
tribes of Israel, the true number of tribes 
involved seems to have been thirteen. 
Why, then, does the Bible continue to 
speak of them as the Twelve Tribes rather 
than the Thirteen? Which tribe was left 
out in this reckoning? (D*) 

There were actually only twelve sons 
of Jacob, not thirteen. But in Genesis 
48:22 Jacob granted to Joseph a dou- 
ble portion of his inheritance rather 
than the single portion that each of 
Jacob’s other eleven sons was to re- 
ceive. This meant that, in effect, while 
there would be no tribe of Joseph as 
such, there would be two Joseph tribes: 
the tribe of Ephraim and the tribe of 
Manasseh. In other words, Ephraim 
was tribe A of Joseph and Manasseh 
was tribe B of Joseph. 

On the other hand, the tribe of Levi 
was to serve as the priestly tribe and 
was to care for the spiritual welfare of 
all the rest of the tribes. Therefore, the 
tribe of Levi was to receive no tribal 
territory as such (Levites were distrib- 
uted in designated cities and towns 
throughout Canaan after its conquest). 
This would have meant that there 
would be only eleven tribal territories 
rather than twelve, were it not for the 
fact that there were two Joseph tribes 
to make up for the subtraction of Levi 
from the number of landholding 


tribes. Yet it was God’s purpose that 
Israel should consist of twelve tribes 
rather than merely eleven. The double 
honor granted to Joseph by giving 
him — through his sons — a double in- 
heritance came to him because of his 
outstanding services in preserving his 
whole family from death in time of 
famine and for supplying them with a 
haven of refuge in the land of the Nile. 

How are the blessings and predictions in 
Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33 to be 
harmonized with each other? 

Genesis 49 was a divine revelation to 
Jacob near the end of his life (ca. 1860 
b.c.). Deuteronomy 33 was composed 
by Moses 455 years later (ca. 1405). 
Therefore Jacob’s prophecy reflected 
a longer span of years than that of 
Moses, so far as the future career of 
Israel was concerned. Furthermore, 
Moses’ song of blessing contained for 
the most part prayers for future bless- 
ing that expressed his hopeful desires 
but fell short of the status of actual 
predictions. These factors should be 
borne in mind as we compare the two 
passages in their bearing on each of 
the Twelve Tribes. For the sake of 
convenience, we shall follow the order 
of Genesis 49 in dealing with the vari- 
ous tribes, rather than the somewhat 
different order in Deuteronomy 33, 
which is the later oracle. 

Reuben 

Reuben’s tribe is not to enjoy 
preeminence over the other tribes, de- 
spite his status of primogeniture (Gen. 
49:4). Moses offers a prayer for his fu- 
ture survival as a tribe, and the hope 
that his descendants will be numerous 
enough to stand their ground (Deut. 
33:6). As a matter of fact, the tribe of 
Reuben was one of the first to be over- 
come; for it was apparently subjugated 
by Moab in the ninth century, as the 
Mesha Stone inscription makes clear 
(ANET, Pritchard, p. 320). Medeba, 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


Baal-meon, Kiryathaim, and Dibon 
were all in the tribe of Reuben accord- 
ing to the original apportionment 
under Joshua. 

Simeon 

This tribe will, along with Levi, be 
dispersed or scattered among the 
other tribes (Gen. 49:5-7). There is no 
mention of Simeon at all in Deu- 
teronomy 33. Although the popula- 
tion of Simeon was quite substantial 
(59,300 men at arms) at the time of the 
Exodus (Num. 1:23), it later proved 
unable to maintain its strength and 
numbers after settlement in the 
semiarid region assigned to it south 
and southwest of Judah. It therefore 
was, for all practical purposes, ab- 
sorbed by Judah as its defender and 
ally even before the reign of King Saul. 
And yet its original identity was not 
completely forgotten, since even in 
David’s time there was a Shephatiah 
placed by him in charge of the Simeon- 
ites (1 Chron. 27: 16). 

Levi 

Jacob included Levi with Simeon in 
a common prediction of dispersion 
among the tribes of Israel (Gen. 49: 
5-7). As it turned out, however, the 
Levites were scattered throughout all 
Israel in forty-eight Levitical cities, 
in order to teach the twelve land- 
possessing tribes the statutes of the 
Lord. It was by no means the result of 
attrition and declining numbers that 
they were so scattered but rather part 
of the Lord’s plan for the spiritual 
nourishment of the whole common- 
wealth. Deuteronomy 33 exalts the 
holy status of the tribe of Levi as the 
priestly tribe — an exaltation that Jacob 
apparently did not foresee — charged 
with the responsibility of teaching Is- 
rael the law of the Lord and of present- 
ing incense and burnt offerings before 
Him. (There is no contradiction be- 
tween these two prophecies but only a 


gracious transmutation of Levi’s land- 
less condition into a matter of high 
privilege as the leading tribe in the 
spiritual life of the nation.) 

Judah 

Genesis 49:8-12 portrays Judah as a 
lionlike battle champion and as the 
tribe ordained to royal status as ruler 
over the whole nation, starting from 
the time of the first Judean king 
(namely David) until the coming of 
Shiloh, the Messiah. Deuteronomy 33 
contains no predictions concerning 
Judah’s future but only a prayer that 
the Lord will help him to overcome his 
adversaries. 

Zebulun 

Genesis 49:13 foretells the location 
of this tribe near the shore, affording a 
convenient passage for the cargoes of 
the ships unloading at the docks of the 
Mediterranean coast for transport to 
the Sea of Galilee and transshipment 
up to Damascus and beyond. (While 
Zebulun was located on neither coast, 
the Valley of Jezreel afforded an excel- 
lent highway for imported goods to be 
conveyed to the most important inland 
markets. Its northern border would 
point in the direction of the great 
commercial cities of Phoenicia, of 
which Sidon was then the leading em- 
porium. As for Deuteronomy 33:18- 
19, nothing more definite is said of 
Zebulun than he will “rejoice” in his 
“going forth.” 

Issachar 

Genesis 49:14-15 foresees the time 
when the hardworking, industrious 
people of this tribe will be subjected to 
foreign servitude — along with the rest 
of Israel and Samaria — which took 
place in 732 b.c., when Tiglath-pileser 
III annexed this territory to the Assyr- 
ian Empire and made it directly sub- 
servient to Assyrian rulers (cf. 2 Kings 
15:29; Isa. 9:1). Deuteronomy 33:18- 


104 


GENESIS 


19 looks forward to an earlier and 
more glorious stage of Issachar’s fu- 
ture, when Deborah and Barak — who 
were natives of this tribe (Judg. 
5:15) — would summon Israel’s defend- 
ers to gather on the mountain (i.e., 
Mount Tabor [Judg. 4:12]), from 
which they would charge down against 
the armies of Jabin and Sisera and put 
them to flight. Like Zebulun, Issachar 
would also enjoy the benefits of being 
located along the major trade route of 
the Valley of Jezreel, thus dealing with 
the commerce of the Mediterranean as 
well as the good fishing of the Sea of 
Galilee (“the abundance of the seas”). 
But, of course, this prosperous condi- 
tion of Issachar prior to the period of 
the Assyrian invasions had to give way 
to a new era of servitude, after the 
capitulation of Samaria to the Assyr- 
ians in 732. Ten years later Samaria 
was captured and consigned to de- 
struction, and Israel was dragged away 
into permanent exile in the Middle 
East (2 Kings 17:6). 

Dan 

Genesis 49: 16-18 foretells the career 
of Samson (although he is not men- 
tioned by name, of course) as one of 
the best-known “judges” of Israel. 
(The name “Dan” comes from the root 
din, “to judge.”) But then it mentions 
the vicious aggression that Dan — or at 
least a migrating portion of it — would 
display, snapping at its victims like a 
poisonous serpent. This refers to that 
rather sordid episode related in Judges 
18, where a Danite expeditionary force 
of six hundred robbed Micah the Eph- 
raimite of his silver idol and his hired 
priest and took them off with them 
northward. They then fell on the city 
of Laish, without provocation or warn- 
ing of any sort, and butchered all its 
inhabitants before taking over the city 
for their own, renaming it Dan. As for 
Deuteronomy 33:22, it simply de- 
scribes Dan as a leaping lion — which 
certainly has been illustrated above. 


Gad 

Genesis 49:19 indicates that Gad in 
its Transjordanian location will be sub- 
ject to invasions and raids but will 
summon up the strength to put the 
aggressors to flight. Deuteronomy 33 
enlarges on the theme of successful 
resistance and represents the Gadite 
warriors as bold like lions and as the 
instruments of God’s justice inflicted 
on the guilty. The principal fulfillment 
in view here must have been that 
freebooter turned patriot named 
Jephthah. It was he who later turned 
back the Ammonite invaders and 
meted out severe punishment to those 
Ephraimite warriors that had sent no 
help during the Ammonite invasion. 
These Ephraimites felt so aggrieved 
that they had not been especially 
summoned to help out in routing the 
Ammonites that they made an issue of 
it before Jephthah, and they ended up 
being slaughtered by the fords of the 
Jordan (Judg. 12:4-6). 

Asher 

Genesis 49:20 speaks only of the fu- 
ture prosperity of this northern tribe; 
they will enjoy rich food, even “royal 
dainties.” Deuteronomy 33:24-25 en- 
larges on this theme of prosperity, 
speaking of their abundance of oil and 
their fine gate-bars fashioned of 
bronze and iron (which were the most 
expensive kind). They will, in fact, 
surpass all the other tribes in their ma- 
terial plenty; and they will enjoy free- 
dom from the devastation of war. (It 
was not until the debacle of 732 that 
Asher was invaded and taken over by 
the Assyrian Empire.) 

Naphtali 

Genesis 49:21 states that Naphtali 
will be like a doe let loose and will 
enjoy the eloquence of words. In other 
words, this tribe will enjoy a relatively 
free and easy life and cultivate the arts 
of literature and public speech. 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


Deuteronomy 33:23 lays more em- 
phasis on the enrichment from fishing 
and commerce — largely that which 
came from the Sea of Galilee and the 
inland route from Phoenicia in the 
north. They will extend their influence 
to the regions south of them (i.e., 
Zebulun, Issachar, and Manasseh). 
Presumably this involved happy trade 
relationships with their kinsmen to the 
south. 

Joseph 

It is interesting that in both passages 
the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh 
(which itself was subdivided into two 
half-tribes) should have been treated 
as a single tribe, both in the predictions 
of Jacob and in the Song of Moses. 
Since the division into three separate 
tribal holdings took place after the 
conquest under Joshua, it may rea- 
sonably be concluded that neither 
chapter was composed after the tribal 
division had taken place (as liberal 
scholars unthinkingly assume). It 
should be remembered, however, that 
this establishment of Joseph’s two sons 
as tribal progenitors was occasioned by 
the blessing of Jacob himself, as re- 
corded in Genesis 48. It was his deci- 
sion to give Joseph the double portion 
of his inheritance, rather than to Reu- 
ben his firstborn (Gen. 48:13-22). 

Genesis 49:22-26 predicts the future 
prosperity and fruitfulness of the 
Joseph tribes, as they successfully cope 
with their Ganaanite enemies in secur- 
ing their alloted portions in the 
forested uplands of the center of Pales- 
tine. The “archers” who shoot at 
Joseph may refer to the chariot troops 
of the coastal Ganaanites as well as 
those who were headquartered in 
Beth-shean (Josh. 17:15-18). Judges 
1:22-25 tells of the successful attack by 
the Ephraimites against Bethel (whose 
walls were doubtless manned by many 
an archer). Another possibility, fa- 
vored by some writers, is that the “arch- 
ers” were invading Egyptian troops 


who kept control of the most impor- 
tant trade routes and strategic fortress 
cities at various times during the 
period of the Judges, particularly dur- 
ing the reigns of Seti I (1320-1300) 
and Rameses the Great (1299-1234). In 
the earlier Tell el-Amarna corre- 
spondence (1400-1370), the Ganaanite 
kings continually plead for the 
Pharaoh to send them “archers” (pi- 
da-ti) from his regular army in order to 
bolster their defenses against the in- 
vading Habiru (or SA.GAZ) (cf. 
Pritchard, ANET, p. 488). Whatever 
explanation we adopt for these arch- 
ers, they were to be successfully 
dealt with by the men of Ephraim 
through the help of the Lord. The Eph- 
raimites would also be blessed with a 
good rainfall and abundant crops 
(“blessings of the deep that lies be- 
neath” [v.25]). Ephraim is to be a tribe 
notably distinguished above his breth- 
ren, a promise fulfilled by the splendid 
leadership of Joshua the son of Nun, 
an Ephraimite. (This verse by itself 
demonstrates the impossibility of dat- 
ing Gen. 49 at any time later than the 
reign of Solomon, since no Judean au- 
thor would have included such high 
praise of the arch rival of Judah in any 
such fashion as this.) 

As for Deuteronomy 33:13-17, 
Moses predicts that Joseph’s land will 
be blessed by the Lord with abundant 
rain and crops from a fertile soil. The 
surrounding hills will pour down their 
streams on the plowed fields to give 
them good harvests. By the special 
favor of the God who spoke to Moses 
from the burning bush, the warriors of 
Ephraim and Manasseh will be enabled 
to repel and subdue their foes. Thus 
we see an essential agreement between 
the two chapters in regard to the fu- 
ture of these two tribes. 

Benjamin 

Genesis 49:27 refers briefly to the 
fierceness and courage of this small 
tribe: it is like a ravenous wolf who de- 


106 


GENESIS 


vours the prey and divides the spoil. 
(Perhaps this foretells the prowess of 
Benjamin in holding off the troops of 
the other eleven tribes during the Ben- 
jamite War [judg. 20], until finally 
they themselves were ambushed near 
Gibeah and almost completely annihi- 
lated, except for the six hundred who 
escaped.) But in Deuteronomy 33:12 
Moses offers a prayer on Benjamin’s 
behalf that God may show His love to 
him by protecting him night and day. 
Yet it should be understood that there 
is a substantial difference between a 
prediction and a prayer. Moses prayed 
for Benjamin’s security and protec- 
tion; but that prayer provided no 
guarantee that God’s loving concern 
and care would extend into the indefi- 
nite future, if Benjamin should ever 
forsake its covenant obligations toward 
the Lord and fall into gross sin. 

As long as they were obedient and 
faithful, the Benjamites certainly did 
enjoy God’s deliverance — as in the 
example of Ehud, the patriot who 
managed to kill Eglon, king of Moab, 
by resorting to a ruse. Ehud was en- 
abled to escape the Moabite guards 
and flee to safety in the hill country of 
Ephraim, where he gathered about him 
an army of courageous patriots and 
smashed the Moabite troops to regain 
Israel’s independence (judg. 3:15-30). 
But in later years, when the infamous 
atrocity was committed in Gibeah and 
the rest of the tribe of Benjamin rallied 
to protect the degenerate sodomites 
who had raped the Levite’s concubine 
to death, the protecting favor of God 
was necessarily withdrawn. The rest of 
the tribes of Israel finally succeeded in 
avenging the dastardly crime, even 
though it meant wiping out almost the 
entire tribe of Benjamin (judg. 20), as 
mentioned above. 

Yet favor of the Lord was restored to 
the Benjamites after their wickedness 
had been thoroughly dealt with. Their 
six hundred survivors returned to fel- 
lowship with Israel and Israel’s God; 


and they so increased in numbers that 
by Saul’s time (the eleventh century 
b.c.) they were once again a force to be 
reckoned with. It was from this small- 
est, severely battered tribe that God 
chose out the first king of the United 
Monarchy of Israel: Saul the son of 
Kish (1 Sam. 9-10). Thus it was that 
the Lord answered Moses’ prayer to 
the extent that He was able to do so 
without compromising His own integ- 
rity and holiness. 

We conclude this comparative study 
with the observation that no real dis- 
crepancies or contradictions can be 
found between the prophecy of Jacob 
in Genesis 49 and the prayer of Moses 
in Deuteronomy 33. 

Is Genesis 49:10 really a prediction of 
Christ? What is the real meaning of 
Shiloh? 

Genesis 49: 10 appears in a stanza of 
Jacob’s prophecies concerning his 
twelve sons; Judah is dealt with in vv. 
8-12. That tribe is presented in a par- 
ticularly warlike aspect, with such traits 
as “Your hand shall be on the neck of 
your enemies” (v.8, nasb) and “Judah 

is a lion’s whelp as a lion, who 

dares rouse him up?” (v.9, nasb). 
Verse 10 emphasizes the coming role 
of Judah as the royal leader overall the 
tribes of Israel, and possibly over for- 
eign nations as well. It reads as follows: 
“The scepter shall not depart from 
Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from be- 
tween his feet, until Shiloh comes, and 
to him shall be the obedience of the 
peoples ['ammim]" (nasb). The greatest 
stress is laid on the military prowess 
and kingly status of this royal tribe, 
and there is a clear affirmation that 
this kingly status is to continue until 
the appearance of a key figure re- 
ferred to as “Shiloh.” The scepter and 
lawgiver’s ( m'‘hdqeq ) staff will be 
wielded by this tribe until the arrival of 
Shiloh himself. 

But the question arises, Who or what 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


is Shiloh? The Aramaic Targum ren- 
ders v. 10 as follows: “Until the Mes- 
siah comes, to whom the kingdom be- 
longs.” This seems to identify Shiloh as 
a title of the Messiah, but it also points 
to an interpretation of this name that 
involves the phrase “who to him” or “to 
whom.” The Septuagint, dating from 
the third century b.c., renders the 
clause “until there come the things 
laid up [ apokeimena ] for him.” This 
suggests that siloh was interpreted with 
a different vowel pointing, as sello 
(“one to whom”). The second-century 
a.d. Greek translations of Aquila and 
Symmachus construe it more succintly 
as “[the one] for whom it has been 
stored up,” or: reserved, using the same 
Greek verb but in the form apokeitai. 
Jerome’s Latin Vulgate derived it (in- 
correctly) from the verb salah (“to 
send”) and translated it as “the one 
who is to be sent” (qui mittendus est). 

It is fair to say, however, that the 
preponderance of modern authorities, 
both conservative and nonconserva- 
dve, tend to prefer the explanation 
“the one to whom [it belongs]” and 
make the coming ruler the antecedent, 
understanding the “scepter” as the ob- 
ject that belongs to him. In other 
words, they render the clause thus: 
“The scepter shall not depart from 
Judah . . . until He comes to whom it 
belongs; and to Him shall be the 
obedience of the peoples.” But wheth- 
er the word is understood to be a 
mystical name for the Messiah (some- 
what like the name Jeshurun for the 
nation Israel [Deut. 32:15]), or 


whether it is a relative phrase “who to 
him” {sello), it clearly refers to the Mes- 
siah, and possibly also to David, the an- 
cestral type of Christ the King. (But to 
relate this promise to David raises the 
formidable difficulty that the scepter 
did not really depart from Judah when 
David came; on the contrary, it only 
began to be wielded by Judah when he 
assumed the throne and crown of the 
kingdom of Israel.) 

We should not close this discussion 
without mentioning a most intriguing 
parallel passage in Ezekiel 21:27 (32 
Heb.) that appears to be a reflection of 
Genesis 49: 10: “A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I 
shall make it [i.e., Jerusalem, about to 
be attacked by Nebuchadnessar in 588 
b.c.]. This also will be no more [or else 
‘will not happen’ (/o’ hayah)], until He 
comes whose right it is [lit., “who to 
him the judgment” {’" ser 16 hammispat)]-, 
and I shall give it to Him" (nasb). The 
similarity in wording can scarcely be an 
accident. ’ a ser 16 is the normal prose 
equivalent of sello (“who to him”). In 
Ezekiel’s statement we find hammispat 
(“the right of judgment”), replacing the 
kindred concept of “scepter” (sebet) in 
Genesis 49:10. If, therefore, Ezekiel 
21:27 is intended to build on the foun- 
dation of Genesis 49:10 and reveal its 
ultimate application to the Messiah — as 
it certainly seems to do in Ezekiel — who 
will be descended from the royal house 
of Judah, then we are on firm ground 
in understanding Genesis 49:10 as in- 
tended by God to refer to His divine 
Son, the messianic descendant of 
David. 


108 


Exodus 


How could God bless Shiphrah and Puah 
for lying to Pharaoh? 

Exodus 1:16 contains the instruc- 
tions of the Egyptian king to the He- 
brew midwives concerning the murder 
of Hebrew male babies at the time of 
delivery: “When you are helping the 
Hebrew women to give birth ... if it is 
a son, then you shall put him to death; 
but if it is a daughter, then she shall 
live” (nasb). This, then, was a com- 
mand for them to commit infanticide. 
The narrative goes on to say that in 
order to avoid perpetrating this hein- 
ous act, they resorted to a strategy of 
delay. That is to say, they managed to 
slow up their response to the call from 
a woman in labor to such an extent that 
the baby was already born and safely 
tucked away in its crib by the time they 
finally arrived at the house. 

As the midwives explained to Phar- 
aoh, “The Hebrew women . . . are vig- 
orous, and they give birth before 
the midwife can get to them” (Exod. 
1:19, nasb). From the standpoint of the 
midwives’ arriving too late, this was 
probably true. They simply did not di- 
vulge tbe fact that their tardy arrival 
was deliberately planned. They might 
easily have been caught by the Egyp- 
tian police if they had been put under 
twenty-four-hour surveillance; so they 
ran a real risk of detection, trial, and 
execution. But when faced with the 
choice between penetrating system- 
atic infanticide against their own people 


and misleading the king by a half-truth 
in order to avert this calamity, they 
rightly chose the lesser ill in order to 
avoid the greater. God did not honor 
and bless these two brave women for 
their withholding part of the truth; 
rather, he blessed them for their 
willingness to incur personal danger in 
order to save the lives of innocent 
babies. 

In this connection the question is 
sometimes raised as to how just two 
midwives could have served a commu- 
nity of two million people during a 
period of high birthrate. Of course 
they could not have served so many 
Hebrew mothers without numerous 
assistants. But it was normal Egyptian 
practice to set up a bureaucratic chain 
of command in connection with almost 
every government agency or activity. 
Each department had its own overseer, 
directly responsible to the head of gov- 
ernment, whether on the national level 
or on the provincial level. In this case 
the king appointed two seasoned pro- 
fessionals in this field to operate a reg- 
ular obstetrical service under govern- 
ment supervision. We cannot tell how 
many assistants Shiphrah and Puah 
had at their disposal, but they appar- 
ently instructed them carefully about 
the technique of late arrival in order to 
preserve life. Thus Pharaoh had only 
the clever overseers to deal with and to 
interrogate, and they turned out to be 
more than a match for him. Hence 
God gave them both the blessing of 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


raising many children of their own, as 
a reward for their courage in risking 
their lives to save the babies of others. 

How could a good and loving God instruct 
the Hebrews to plunder the Egyptians 
(Exod. 3:22)? Was it not dishonorable for 
them to borrow jewels that they never in- 
tended to return? 

First of all, there is one important 
matter of translation to clear up. The 
kjv translates the first clause as follows: 
“But every woman shall borrow of her 
neighbour, and of her that sojourneth 
in her house, jewels of silver, and 
jewels of gold, and raiment.” The verb 
translated “borrow” is sa’al, which is 
the common word for “ask, ask for, re- 
quest, inquire of.” (F. Brown, S.R. 
Driver, and C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and 
English Lexicon of the Old Testament [Ox- 
ford: Clarendon, 1968], p. 981, cite 
three instances for the meaning “bor- 
row”: Exodus 22:14 [13 Heb.], 2 Kings 
4:3, and 6:5. In these passages the con- 
text makes it clear that the items re- 
quested were intended for temporary 
use by the person who took them into 
custody, with the understanding that 
they were later to be returned to the 
owners.) In the case of Exodus 3:22; 
11:2; 12:35 (where sa’al is also used), 
however, it is not at all clear that there 
was any pretext of mere temporary 
use. Therefore the normal meaning of 
“ask for” should be assigned to 3:22, as 
nasb renders it: “But every woman 
shall ask of her neighbor . . . articles of 
silver and articles of gold, etc.” They 
simply requested these items as gifts as 
they prepared to depart from Egypt, 
never to return. The Egyptian inhabi- 
tants were well aware of this intention 
and would have been under no illu- 
sions about getting their jewelry back 
again. 

But why were the Egyptians so will- 
ing to donate such treasures to their 
erstwhile slaves? In the context it is 
quite apparent that they were desper- 


ately afraid that the disaster of the 
tenth plague might be repeated once 
more, and that they might lose still 
more of their children and their live- 
stock. As Exodus 12:33 tells us, “The 
Egyptians urged the people [i.e., the 
Hebrew people], to send them out of 
the land in haste, for they said, ‘We 
shall all be dead’” (nasb). The narra- 
tive then continues (vv.35-36): “Now 
the sons of Israel had done according 
to the word of Moses, for they had re- 
quested from the Egyptians articles of 
silver and articles of gold, and cloth- 
ing; and the Lord had given the 
people favor in the sight of the Egyp- 
tians, so that they let them have their 
request. Thus they plundered the 
Egyptians” (nasb). 

The verb for “plundered” in verse 36 
is wayy e nasflu, coming from nasal , 
which in the piel stem means “strip off, 
spoil, deliver someone from [danger].” 
It is not the usual term for plundering 
the enemy after he has been killed on 
the battlefield; that would be salal. But 
nissel clearly is used here in a figurative 
sense, for the narrative plainly states 
that the Israelites simply made an oral 
request for a parting gift; and they re- 
ceived what they asked for. To be sure, 
there was a compelling factor of fear 
that moved the Egyptians to be so 
generous in parting with their treas- 
ures; so there was a certain sense in 
which they were despoiled by the de- 
parting Hebrews. They trembled with 
dread at the awesome power of Israel’s 
God and the stroke of His destroying 
angel who had wrought such havoc on 
the night of the Passover. 

As for the moral question whether 
such an act of spoliation (if we may de- 
scribe a willing surrender of property 
by such a term) was ethically justifiable, 
or whether it was compatible with the 
goodness and love of God, we must 
bear in mind that for generations, even 
centuries, the Israelite population in 
Egypt had been subject to oppressive 
and brutal enslavement. Systematic in- 


110 


EXODUS 


fanticide was practiced toward their 
male offspring; they had been com- 
pelled to work for nothing in order to 
build Pharaoh’s treasure cities and his 
other public works. There was a sense 
in which these jewels of silver, gold, 
and gems were only their just due; and 
they furnished only a partial compen- 
sation for all the anguish and toil to 
which they had been subjected. From 
this standpoint there can be no legiti- 
mate moral question raised concerning 
this whole transaction. 

In Exodus 4:24 whom did the Lord meet? 
Why did He seek to kill him? What is the 
connection of the details of vv.25-26 to 
the subject of v.24? (D*) 

In Exodus 4:24 the antecedent of 
"him” is "Moses.” Why did God inflict 
him with such a near-fatal illness? In 
all probability it w'as because of Moses’ 
neglect of the covenant sign of circum- 
cision in the case of his own son, Ger- 
shom. We are driven to this conclusion 
by the fact that Moses could not re- 
cover and escape the death that 
threatened him until Zipporah had 
performed this rite on their son (v.25). 
Obviously she was strongly averse to 
this measure and did it only under 
compulsion, for she parted company 
with her husband after reproaching 
him as "a bridegroom of blood.” It may 
have been that the Midianite practice 
was to reserve circumcision for lads 
who had just attained puberty rather 
than performing it on young and ten- 
der infants. But the Abrahamic tradi- 
tion was to perform it when the child 
was eight days old (Gen. 17:12). Fail- 
ure to receive circumcision meant that 
the boy would be "cut off from his 
people.” 

Now since Moses had been ap- 
pointed for a responsible role of lead- 
ership, he was duty bound to serve as a 
good example to the people of Israel 
and to show faithfulness to the cove- 
nant obligations inherited from Abra- 


ham. The only way Moses could be 
forced into taking this step — against 
his wife’s wishes — would be to afflict 
him with a potentially fatal illness. And 
so this is precisely what God did. 

How could the Israelites have sojourned 
430 years in Egypt if there were only three 
generations between Levi and Moses 
(Exod. 6:16-20)? 

In common with almost all the 
genealogies of this type recorded in 
the Pentateuch (cf. Num. 26:28-34), 
the general practice is followed in 
Exodus 6 of listing a person’s family 
tree by tribe, clan, and family group. 
As D.N. Freedman points out (in G.E. 
Wright, ed., The Bible and the Ancient 
Near East [London: Routledge and 
Kegan Paul, 1961], pp. 206-7), this 
type of classification was common in 
ancient Near Eastern practice. In 
Egyptian royal genealogies we find 
that several links are omitted between 
Rameses II in the Nineteenth Dynasty 
and the kings of the Twenty-first 
Dynasty in the Berlin genealogy pub- 
lished by Borchardt (in Kitchen, An- 
cient Orient, pp. 54-55). 

It is quite obvious that if by Moses’ 
time (according to Num. 3:27-28) the 
combined total of Amramites, Izha- 
rites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites came 
to 8,600 — all of whom were descended 
from Kohath — the Amram who had 
perhaps one-fourth of 8,600 “chil- 
dren” (or 2,150) could not have been 
the immediate parent of Moses and 
Aaron. They could hardly have had 
over 2000 brothers in that one family! 
While Moses’ father may in fact have 
been named Amram, he could not 
have been the same Amram as pro- 
duced that many descendants. 

Fortunately in 1 Chronicles we have 
many genealogies that are more com- 
plete, and these indicate that there 
were nine or ten generations between 
the sons of Jacob and the generation of 
Moses. For example, (1)1 Chronicles 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


7:25 tells us there were ten links be- 
tween Ephraim and Joshua: Beriah- 
Rephah-Resheph-Telah-Tahan-Ladan- 
Ammihud-Elishama-Nun-Joshua. (2) 
Bezalel, who designed the tabernacle 
(Exod. 31:2-11), was in the seventh 
generation from Jacob (cf. 1 Chron. 
2:1,4-5,9,18-20). (3) Elishama, men- 
tioned in Numbers 1:10, was in the 
ninth generation from Jacob (1 Chron. 
7:22-27). 

Nine or ten generations between 
Jacob and Moses harmonizes very well 
with a 430-year sojourn for the Israel- 
ites in Egypt (i.e., between 1875 and 
1445 b.c.). This would average out to 
43 years per generation. (The 215-year 
theory, espoused by those who follow 
the Septuagint reading for Exod. 
12:40, would yield only 215 years for 
the sojourn, for an average of 21 years 
per generation. In the case of Bezalel 
and Joshua, this is well nigh incredible. 
So also is the increase of the original 70 
or 75 in Jacob’s immigrant group to 
over two million souls by Moses’ time.) 

Do not Exodus 6:26-27 and 16:33-36 in- 
dicate a biographer of Moses other than 
Moses himself? 

Exodus 6:14-27 is a long paragraph 
giving the names of the first three of 
the twelve sons of Jacob and their first 
generations of descendants, who be- 
came the heads of the various subtribes 
through whom genealogical descent 
was reckoned by the time of the 
Exodus. But most of the attention is 
devoted to the priestly tribe of Levi 
and the line of Aaron and Moses. The 
survey concludes with the following 
words: “It was the same Aaron and 
Moses to whom the Lord said, ‘Bring 
out the sons of Israel from the land of 
Egypt according to their hosts.’ They 
were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh 
king of Egypt about bringing out the 
sons of Israel from Egypt; it was the 
same Moses and Aaron” (vv. 26-27, 
nasb). These comments certainly 


sound like those of a historian rather 
than the personal memoirs of Moses 
himself, at least so it is supposed by 
most Bible critics of a subevangelical or 
liberal persuasion. 

To specialists in the field of com- 
parative literature, however, an au- 
thor’s use of the third person singular 
when writing of his own deeds is en- 
tirely a matter of established literary 
convention, depending on the genre 
involved. In some genres, such as the 
personal autobiography, it was quite 
customary to refer to one’s self in the 
first person singular. But in the case of 
a major historical account, it was more 
usual to refer to all actors on the scene 
in the third person rather than in the 
first, even though the author hap- 
pened to be writing about an action in 
which he was personally involved. 

The numerous historical records 
concerning the various kings of Egypt 
and their exploits were normally 
couched in the third person, except in 
instances where the words of the 
Pharaoh are directly quoted. The 
Greek historian Xenophon, in his 
Anabasis, characteristically refers to 
himself in the third person; likewise 
does Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars 
and his Civil Wars as well. Yet no one 
questions that these were the genuine 
works of Xenophon and Caesar. 

Furthermore, it would have ap- 
peared quite strange to the Hebrew 
reader (as well as to us modern readers) 
if in this genealogical account the 
author had suddenly brought him- 
self into it with such wording as this: 
“These are the heads of the fathers’ 
(households) of the Levites according 
to their families. It was actually us, 
Moses and Aaron, to whom the Lord 
said, ‘Bring out the sons of Israel from 
the land of Egypt. . . .’ We were the 
ones who spoke to Pharaoh the king ol 
Egypt about bringing out the sons ol 
Israel from Egypt” (Exod. 6:25-26) 
Nothing could sound more bizarr 
than this sudden intrusion of first pet 


112 


EXODUS 


son forms in the midst of an objective 
account of this sort. Hence a con- 
formity to the usual conventions gov- 
erning this genre of the historical nar- 
rative furnishes no evidence whatever 
against Mosaic authorship of such 
verses as these. 

As for Exodus 16:33-34, the same 
principle obtains. “And Moses said to 
Aaron, ‘Take ajar and put an omerful 
of manna in it As the Lord com- 

manded Moses, so Aaron placed it be- 
fore the Testimony, to be kept” (nasb). 
Any normal historian, especially one 
who was not a boastful monarch of 
Egypt or Mesopotamia, would record 
actions in which he was personally in- 
volved in an objective style of speech 
just like this. Moses was writing an offi- 
cial record for the benefit of the entire 
nation; he had no intention of convert- 
ing this record into a self-exalting per- 
sonal memoir. 

Why did the Egyptian magicians display 
the power (according to Exod. 8:7) of per- 
forming miracles as Moses and Aaron did 
(cf. also Exod. 7:11,22)? (D*) 

Scripture indicates that Satan has 
power to perform “lying wonders” 
(2 Thess. 2:9) through his wicked agents 
for the express purpose of leading 
mankind astray. Christ warned that 
“false Christs and false prophets will 
arise and will show great signs and 
wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, 
even the elect” (Matt. 224:24). From 
Exodus 7 and 8 we learn that Satan 
displayed this power and employed 
this strategem even in the time of 
Moses. Satan will continue to do so 
even in the final days of the Great Trib- 
ulation (Rev. 13:13), when his agent 
the False Prophet will perform “great 
signs, so that he even makes fire come 
down out of heaven to the earth in the 
presence of men” (nasb). 

Counterfeit miracles, then, are Sa- 
tan’s stock in trade. Yet it should be 
carefully noted that Satan-empowered 


miracles are based largely on decep- 
tion and illusion and generally involve 
some kind of clever trickery. Pharaoh’s 
magicians showed a skill not much dif- 
ferent from that of professional magi- 
cians today, who know how to produce 
rabbits or doves out of their hats. 
Their staffs that turned into serpents 
when cast on the ground may have 
been snakes that they had charmed 
into rigidity that made them look like 
staffs until their bodies hit the ground. 
Their frogs, apparently few in number 
compared to the overwhelming host 
that Moses’ rod produced, may have 
been concealed at first like the rabbits 
in the magician’s hat. But when they 
failed in their attempt to reproduce 
the stinging gnats that Aaron’s rod had 
brought forth, they had to admit to 
Pharaoh that their art was merely 
human (or merely satanic, at least); for 
this new plague could only be ex- 
plained as “the finger of God” (Exod. 
8:19). 

More importantly, the magicians’ 
power was utterly inadequate to cope 
with the blood and the frogs produced 
by the Hebrew leaders. Neither were 
the magicians able to remove them 
from afflicting the land of Egypt. 
Hence their clever trickery was com- 
pletely valueless and impotent before 
the true miracles performed by God in 
the ten plagues. 

Why did God slay all the firstborn Egyp- 
tians when the Egyptian people had no 
control over Pharaoh’s decision not to 
allow the Israelites to leave his country 
(Exod. 12:29-30)? (D*) 

There is no way for nations to be 
dealt with other than on a collective 
basis. The fortunes of the citizens of 
any country are bound up with the 
government that guides their national 
policy, whether that government be a 
democracy, a party dictatorship, or 
monarchy. A wise and successful gov- 
ernment passes on its benefit to all its 


113 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


citizenry, as when its armed forces de- 
feat an invading host on the battlefield. 

A foolish or wicked government, like 
that of King Ahaz in the days of Isaiah 
the prophet, brings disaster and dis- 
tress on all its subjects, regardless of 
personal merit. So it was with Egypt in 
Moses’ day. The consequences of the 
decisions made by Pharaoh and his 
court were binding on all the people. 
Throughout history, ever since gov- 
ernments were first organized on the 
tribal level, it has been so. 

Thus when Egypt’s king decided to 
break his solemn oath by repeated acts 
of perjury and to set at defiance the 
almighty Lord of the universe, there 
could be no result other than the final, 
dreadful plague of which Moses had 
forewarned. By the terms of this judg- 
ment every firstborn male throughout 
Egypt, whether man or beast, was to 
lose his life, even as all previous nine 
plagues had affected the entire popula- 
tion of the Nile Valley. 

Conceivably a coup d’etat might have 
toppled Pharaoh from his throne in 
time to avert this approaching catas- 
trophe, but his subjects were content to 
let him make the fateful decision as 
their lawful ruler. A loss of life in the 
family of the king alone — or even in 
the households of his aristocracy — 
would scarcely have sufficed to compel 
Egypt to grant a release of the entire 
Israelite nation and all its cattle. Noth- 
ing short of an all-inclusive calamity 
visited on the entire people would 
serve to bring about the deliverance of 
God’s people from the bondage they 
had suffered in Egypt. 

How could the various plagues fail to af- 
fect the Israelites as well as the Egyptians 
if they were imposed on the whole land of 
Egypt, as Exodus 8:16 and 9:22 say they 
were? 

Neither in the Bible nor in any other 
literary document are we at liberty to 
take terms like “all” in an absolute 


sense if the context clearly indicates a 
qualifying restriction. In Exodus 9:6, 
for example, we read, “So the Lord 
did this thing on the morrow, and all 
the livestock of Egypt died; but of the 
livestock of the sons of Israel, not one 
died” (nasb). The exception is ex- 
pressly made for the Hebrews living in 
Goshen, which was apparently popu- 
lated only by the Israelite population 
along with their household servants 
(some of whom were apparently non- 
Israelite; cf. 12:38). 

No explicit exception is made for the 
Hebrews in connection with the first 
three plagues, the plague of blood 
(7:17-25), the plague of frogs (8:1-14), 
and the plague of lice (8:16-19); yet 
there is no mention made of their 
afflicting the Israelites themselves. In 
the case of the first two, at least, it is 
stated that the Egyptians suffered their 
effect (7:21; 8:4), without reference to 
the Hebrews. But in connection with 
the fourth plague, that of flies, a clear 
distinction is drawn in 8:21: “I will 
send swarms of insects [or flies] on you 
and all your servants and on your 
people and into your houses; and the 
houses of the Egyptians shall be full of 
swarms of insects, and also the ground 
on which they dwell” (nasb). Likewise, 
in the case of the murrain, “the Lord 
will make a distinction between the 
livestock of Israel and the livestock of 
Egypt, so that nothing will die of all 
that belongs to the sons of Israel” (9:4, 
nasb). 

As for the sixth plague, it is clearly 
stated that the boils came on the magi- 
cians and all the Egyptians, but there is 
no mention of Israelites (9:1 1). As for 
the seventh plague, that of the hail and 
lightning, it is expressly stated (v.25) 
that it struck “all that was in the field 
through all the land of Egypt, both 

man and beast Only in the land of 

Goshen, where the sons of Israel were 
there was no hail” (vv. 25-26, nasb). 
Likewise with the ninth plague, that 
of darkness, “there was thick dark- 


114 


EXODUS 


ness in all the land of Egypt for three 
days. . . . But all the sons of Israel had 
light in their dwellings” (10:22-23, 
nasb). As for the tenth plague, it is 
undisputed and unquestioned that the 
death of the firstborn took place in 
every household except those in Goshen 
that had sprinkled the blood of the 
Passover lamb on the lintel and door- 
posts of the front door (12:29-30). 

There is, then, no confusion or con- 
tradiction in the entire narrative. 
Those plagues that afflicted the rest of 
Egypt did not touch Goshen, where 
the Israelites lived. They struck all the 
land of Egypt and all the Egyptians ex- 
cept the believing children of Israel and 
their special enclave in Goshen. 

Is there any evidence that any Pharaoh’s 
son ever died in connection with the Is- 
raelite Exodus? 

Exodus 12:29 states the episode in 
the following terms: “Now it came 
about at midnight that the Lord struck 
all the first-born in the land of Egypt, 
from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat 
on his throne to the first-born of the 
captive who was in the dungeon, and 
all the first-born of cattle” (nasb). The 
question arises as to whether there is 
any Egyptian evidence that might cor- 
roborate this tragic loss of the crown 
prince in a period corresponding to 
the Exodus itself. The answer to that 
question is affirmative, for it is implied 
in the Dream Stela of Thutmose IV. 

To establish the time locus, we 
should take note of the fact that the 
Exodus, according to 1 Kings 6:1, took 
place about 480 years before the cor- 
nerstone was laid for Solomon’s temple 
in Jerusalem. Since Solomon’s reign 
began in 970 b.c., and since he com- 
menced the building of the temple 
four years later (in 966), the Exodus 
must have occurred back in 1446 or 
1445. According to the usual chronol- 
ogy agreed on for the Eighteenth 
Dynasty, Thutmose III (who was 


probably the “Pharaoh of the Oppres- 
sion,” from whom Moses fled after kill- 
ing the Egyptian [Exod. 2:11-15]) 
died in 1447 b.c. His son Amenhotep 
II assumed the throne and became (if 
our chronology is correct) the Pharaoh 
of the Exodus. He reigned until 1421, 
when he was succeeded by his son 
Thutmose IV (1421-1410). 

Now it so happens that a stela was 
found in a shrine connected with the 
great Sphinx at Gizeh, which recorded 
a dream appearance of the god Har- 
makhis, who solemnly promised the 
throne to Thutmose when he was only 
one of the princes in the royal family 
during the reign of his father: “I am 
thy father [i.e., his divine patron, not 
his biological father], Harmakhis- 
Khepri-Re-Atum. I shall give thee my 
kingdom upon earth [i.e., Egypt] 
at the head of the living” (Pritchard, 
ANET, p. 449). This elevation to 
kingship was, according to the god’s 
instructions, to be followed by the 
pious undertaking of removing all the 
desert sand that had drifted against 
the recumbent figure of the Sphinx 
and rendered his chapel (located be- 
tween his gigantic paws) inaccessible to 
the worshiping public. 

The possibility exists that this oracle, 
which Thutmose later had recorded 
in this votive inscription, was simply 
an assurance that Thutmose himself 
would be preserved from death until 
his father had passed away, thus en- 
abling him as crown prince to ascend 
the throne of Egypt. But since this 
would have been the normal sequence 
of events, hardly requiring any unusual 
favor from the gods, it is far more 
likely that Thutmose was not the crown 
prince at the time he had this dream. 
There must have been an older 
brother who was next in line for the 
throne. Therefore it would have to be 
a very special act of providence for 
Thutmose to become his father’s suc- 
cessor. And that providence must have 
entailed the premature death of his 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


older brother. How did it happen that 
this older brother met an untimely 
end? Exodus 12:29 seems to furnish 
the answer to this question. 

How can the second commandment be 
reconciled with God’s directions for pic- 
torial ornamentation in the tabernacle 
(Exod. 25-27) and the temple (1 Kings 
6:1-38; 7:13-51)? 

The second commandment (Exod. 
20:4-5) deals with the sin of idolatry 
and concerns itself, therefore, with the 
fashioning of carved images or other 
representations of “any likeness of 
what is in heaven above or on the earth 
beneath or in the water under the 
earth” (nasb) for the purposes of wor- 
shiping them as numinous powers or 
deities. The connection between the 
first commandment, “You shall have 
no other gods before Me” (v.3, nasb), 
and the second commandment is very 
close, and furnishes a setting in which 
to understand the true, full intent of 
this prohibition. Verse 5 continues this 
commandment by specifying, "You 
shall not worship them or serve them” 
(nasb). In other words, there are to be 
no material likenesses made of persons 
or things that are likely to be wor- 
shiped as supernatural or divine. That 
this is God’s intention is clearly 
brought out by the passages cited 
in the question. Exodus 25:18,20 spec- 
ifies: “You shall make two cherubim 
of gold, make them of hammered work 
at the two ends of the mercy seat. . . . 
And the cherubim shall have their 
wings spread upward, covering the 
mercy seat with their wings and facing 
one another” (nasb). 

In the great temple of Solomon, the 
inner sanctum was to be guarded by 
two images of cherubim at least fifteen 
or eighteen feet tall ("ten cubits”), with 
a wing span of ten cubits as well 
(1 Kings 6:23-27). These cherubim 
would of course be invisible to the gen- 
eral public because of their location in 


the Holy of Holies, protected from 
view by worshipers outside by its drape 
or hanging. As such they could not be- 
come objects of worship. But there 
were also figures of cherubim that 
were carved into the wall of the “Holy 
Place,” along with palm trees and open 
flowers (6:29,32). Apparently they 
were hardly susceptible of becoming 
cult objects when they were used as or- 
namentation along the walls in a recur- 
ring pattern of this sort. Therefore 
they were not considered objectionable 
or contrary to the mandate of the sec- 
ond commandment. 

How can Sunday replace Saturday under 
the fourth commandment? 

In Exodus 20:8 God’s people are 
commanded: “Remember the sabbath 
day, to keep it holy.” The seventh day 
of the week is to commemorate the 
completion of God’s work of creation 
(v. 1 1 concludes, “The Lord . . . rested 
the seventh day; wherefore the Lord 
blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed 
it”). This commandment ranks with 
the nine others to form the Decalogue, 
and there is no suggestion even in the 
New Testament that the Ten Com- 
mandments are not binding on the 
conscience of Christian believers or 
that the number has been reduced to 
nine rather than ten. In the absence of 
any divine instruction to the contrary, 
we may assume that the fourth com- 
mandment is still binding on us. But 
the real question at issue is whether the 
sanction of the seventh day Sabbath 
has been by the New Testament trans- 
ferred to the first day of the week, 
which the Christian church generally 
(apart from Sabbatarian groups) hon- 
ors as the Lord’s Day, otherwise known 
as the Christian Sabbath. 

New Testament Evidence for Sunday 
Worship 

The heart of the apostolic mani- 
festo to the Jewish and Gentile world 


116 


EXODUS 


from Pentecost onward was the bodily 
resurrection of Jesus Christ: “This 
Jesus God raised up again, to which we 
are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32, nasb). The 
bodily resurrection was God’s certifica- 
tion to the world that the Savior of 
mankind had paid a valid and suffi- 
cient price for sinners and that He had 
for them overcome the curse of death. 
Christ’s effectual atoning sacrifice and 
conquest over sin and death ushered in 
a new era, the age of the New Testa- 
ment church. As the Lord’s Supper 
replaced the Old Testament sacrament 
of the Passover, as the death of Christ 
replaced the sacrifice of animal offer- 
ings on the altar, as the high priesthood 
of Christ “after the order of Mel- 
chizedek” replaced the priesthood of 
Aaron and constituted every born- 
again believer as a priest of God, so 
also in the case of this one command- 
ment out of the ten, which was in part 
at least ceremonial, there was to be a 
change in the symbol appropriate to 
the new dispensation, as the following 
facts seem to teach. 

1. Jesus rose from the dead on the 
first day of the week, according to 
all four Evangelists (Matt. 28:1; 
Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). 
Thus Sunday took on special im- 
portance as the weekly day of cele- 
bration for the triumph of the 
Resurrection. 

2. Jesus personally appeared to His 
followers in visible, bodily form and 
conversed with them on Easter 
Sunday. (1) He first appeared to 
Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18). 
(2) He next appeared to the other 
women who had brought spices for 
the embalming of His body (Matt. 
28:7-10). (3) He appeared person- 
ally to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34). 

(4) He walked and talked with 
Cleopas and his companion on the 
road to Emmaus (Luke 24:15-32). 

(5) He appeared to the ten disciples 
and their friends on that same Sun- 


day evening — His first appearance 
to a gathered assembly of Christian 
believers. 

3. Exactly one week later, on a Sunday 
night, Jesus again appeared to His 
disciples; and this time the skeptical 
Thomas (who had been absent on 
the previous Sunday) was on hand. 
To him Jesus presented the physi- 
cal evidence of His nail-pierced 
hands and feet and His spear- 
stabbed side in order to convince 
Thomas that He was alive again and 
was going about in the same body 
that had been crucified on Good 
Friday. 

4. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit 
on the church took place on Pente- 
cost. Since the Crucifixion took 
place on a Friday, the offering of 
the wave-sheaf (typical of the 
Resurrection) took place on the 
“morrow after the sabbath” (Lev. 
23:10-11) — on a Sunday. This 
means that forty-nine days later, 
the Feast of Weeks (known in Greek 
as Pentekoste, “Fiftieth [Day]”) fell 
also on a Sunday. Obviously it was 
the Lord Himself who chose to 
honor Sunday by bringing about 
both the Easter victory and the 
“birthday” of the New Testament 
church on the first day of the week. 

After Pentecost it seems that the 
Christian community continued to 
celebrate the seventh-day Sabbath 
as before, by gathering with other 
Jews (both converted and uncon- 
verted) for the reading of the Torah, 
for preaching, and for prayer. But 
there is no demonstrable reference 
to Christians ever gathering on the 
Saturday Sabbath to celebrate the 
Lord’s Supper or to hold a distinc- 
tively Christian assembly. They 
joined in synagogue worship on 
Saturdays because they felt them- 
selves to be Jews, even though they 
believed in Christ. In fact, they 
believed that they were better and 
more authentic Jews than those 


117 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


who had rejected the Hope of Is- 
rael. But they also met on Sunday 
mornings for worship and Holy 
Communion, and quite possibly on 
Sunday evening as well, when they 
had more preaching and the par- 
taking of the agape meal, or “love 
feast” (Acts 20:5-12). 

5. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul gave 
this instruction to the Corinthian 
church: “On the first day of every 
week let each of you put aside [lit., 
‘put by himself] and save, as he may 
prosper, that no collections be 
made when I come” (nasb). The 
collection referred to was the relief 
fund for starving Hebrew Chris- 
tians of Judea who were so hard hit 
by famine. Paul could hardly have 
been referring to a habit of saving 
carried on simply in private homes, 
for there would then have been no 
point to his referring to any one 
special day of the week. Anyone 
who is saving up for some special 
cause and setting the money aside 
in a “piggy bank” would be free to 
do so on any day of the week. He 
would hardly be expected to wait 
until Sunday to touch his private 
piggy bank. The only plausible basis 
for mentioning a particular day of 
the week was so that they might all 
contribute to the benevolence treas- 
ury (note the use of the word 
thesaurizon, “saving,” which really 
means “putting into a treasury 
[thesauros]," the very same term as 
was applied to the offering box set 
up in the court of the Jerusalem 
temple) according to what their in- 
come had been during the previous 
week ("as he may prosper”), pre- 
sumably the 10 percent prescribed 
by the Old Testament. This pooling 
of their individual contributions 
into a common receptacle would 
enable them to amass a considera- 
ble sum for famine relief. With all 
these factors in view, it is safe for us 
to conclude that the Corinthian 


church was in the habit of meeting 
on Sundays and that they took up 
offerings of some sort in connection 
with those Sunday worship services. 

6. After Paul had spent an entire week 
at Troas, according to Acts 20:5-12, 
he concluded his stay with the 
Christian community there by pre- 
siding at their Sunday evening ser- 
vice. This could hardly have been a 
special meeting held for evangelis- 
tic or Bible-conference purposes, 
for otherwise there would have 
been no discernible motive for him 
to tarry there for seven days (v.6). 
Paul was quite pressed for time, 
since he had to make it to Jerusalem 
in time for the annual Feast of 
Pentecost (v. 16). We must therefore 
conclude that he waited until the 
regular Sunday evening service at 
Troas so that he might have as large 
a congregation as possible. (There 
can be no legitimate question as to 
whether “first day of the week” 
could have referred to Saturday 
evening — as some have argued — 
since Troas was a city of major size 
and commercial importance, and 
it was beyond question predomi- 
nantly Gentile. Therefore for them 
the “first day of the week” would 
have begun at midnight, as it did 
for the Roman world, and as it does 
for us today.) Paul then preached to 
a packed church at the upper story 
level; and they protracted the meet- 
ing all night until the dawn of 
Monday morning, when they held a 
simple love feast together before 
saying goodby (v. 11). The institu- 
tion of Sunday worship was firmly 
entrenched at Troas and obviously 
approved of by Paul. 

7. The final New Testament reference 
to Sunday as a day of special mean- 
ing to Christians is to be found in 
Revelation 1:10: “I was in the Spirit 
on the Lord’s day, and I heard be- 
hind me a loud voice like the sound 
of a trumpet” (nasb). The voice was 


118 


EXODUS 


that of the glorified Christ Himself, 
who had come to commune with 
John on Sunday. “The Lord’s Day” 
is expressed in the dative case: te 
kyriake hemera. There is no valid 
ground for questioning whether 
this really referred to Sunday. To 
this very day it is the regular word 
for “Sunday” in modern Greek, and 
it is plainly so intended in the ear- 
liest postbiblical witnesses ( Didache 
14:1, first quarter of the second 
century; Epistle of Barnabas 15:1, 
early second century). Justin Mar- 
tyr (mid-second century) describes 
a typical order of service at a Chris- 
tian service “on the day called Sun- 
day” ( First Apology 67). In his Dia- 
logue with Trypho (a Jew), Justin 
argues that the command in Genesis 
17 to circumcise an infant “on the 
eighth day” was intended by God as 
“a type of the true circumcision, by 
which we are circumcised from de- 
ceit and iniquity through Him who 
rose from the dead on the first day 
after the Sabbath, our Lord Jesus 
Christ” (Chap. 41). By the early 
third century, Tertullian went so 
far as to insist that “we [Christians] 
have nothing to do with sabbaths or 
other Jewish festivals, much less 
with those of the heathen. We have 
our own solemnities, the Lord’s 
Day, for instance, and Pentecost” 
(On Idolatry 14). In De Oratione (23) 
Tertullian urged the cessation of 
labor on Sunday so that it might be 
preserved as a day of worship for 
God’s people. 

A very interesting testimony is 
found in the Syriac The Teaching of 
the Apostles, dating from the second 
half of the third century, to the ef- 
fect that Christ’s apostles were the 
first to designate the first day of the 
week as the day for Christian wor- 
ship. “The Apostles further ap- 
pointed: On the first day of the 
week let there be service, and the 
reading of the Holy Scriptures, and 


the oblation: because on the first 
day of the week our Lord rose from 
the dead, and on the first day of the 
week He ascended up to heaven, 
and on the first day of the week He 
will appear at last with the angels of 
heaven” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 8.668). 
(For most of the quotations from 
the church fathers, I am indebted 
to Henry Waterman’s fine article 
“The Lord’s Day” [Tenney, Zonder- 
van Pictorial Encyclopedia, 3:965- 
66 ].) 

In the light of these early Christian 
testimonies, we can see the unsound- 
ness of the contention made by some 
Sabbatarian advocates that Sunday was 
not chosen to supersede Saturday as 
the day of Christian worship until the 
time of Constantine the Great (308- 
37). From apostolic times Sunday has 
been recognized by Christians as a day 
of worship and a day of rest. But what 
Constantine did was to issue a special 
edict prescribing Sunday as the official 
day of rest each week throughout the 
Roman Empire. 

Sanctifying the Lord’s Day 

Now that we have covered the New 
Testament basis for the adoption of 
the first day of the week as the distinc- 
tive day of worship for Christians, we 
turn our attention to the question of 
how the Lord’s Day was — and is — to be 
sanctified by God’s people. If our ini- 
tial premise is correct and the Lord’s 
Day is basically intended to perpetuate 
the special sanctity of the Sabbath, 
then it would follow that our reverence 
for Sunday should be equal to that of 
the ancient Hebrew believer for the 
seventh-day Sabbath. 

How is the Lord’s Day to be 
sanctified? Well, if we consult the Dec- 
alogue, we find that it is to be marked 
by a cessation from self-serving, gain- 
ful employment that would be quite 
proper for the other six days of the 
week (Exod. 20:9-10). It is also, ac- 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


cording to Leviticus 23:3, to be a day of 
public worship, a “holy convocation,” 
and a day of special significance for the 
officiating priests. They were to re- 
place the old showbread with fresh 
new loaves on the “table before the 
Lord” in the sanctuary (Lev. 24:8), 
and they were to double the normal 
offering on the altar of sacrifice (the 
“continual burnt offering”) according 
to Numbers 28:9-10. But the most il- 
luminating passage in the Old Testa- 
ment concerning the true celebration 
of the Sabbath is found in Isaiah 
58:13-14: “If because of the sabbath, 
you turn your foot from doing your 
own pleasure on My holy day, and call 
the sabbath a delight, the holy day of 
the Lord honorable, and shall honor 
it, desisting from your own ways, from 
seeking your own pleasure, and speak- 
ing your own word, then you will take 
delight in the Lord, and I will make 
you ride on the heights of the earth” 
(nasb). 

Much of the concept conveyed by 
that passage found classic expression 
in the Westminster Shorter Catechism 
(60): “How is the [Christian] Sabbath 
to be sanctified? The Sabbath is to be 
sanctified by a holy resting all that day, 
even from such worldly employments 
and recreations as are lawful on other 
days; and spending the whole time in 
the public and private exercises of 
God’s worship, except so much as is to 
be taken up in the works of necessity 
and mercy (Matt. 12:1 1-12).” This was 
the ideal standard of the Puritan move- 
ment, which represented the finest 
flower of the Protestant Reforma- 
tion in the English-speaking world. 
While that standard is now more often 
honored by the breach than by ob- 
servance, it would be difficult to prove 
that the modern permissive attitude 
toward hallowing the Lord’s Day has 
any foundation in Scripture. 

It is often urged by those who advo- 
cate pure voluntarism in the use of 
Sunday that Colossians 2:16 abolishes 


almost all the sanctions of the Old Tes- 
tament fourth commandment. This 
verse says, “Therefore do not let any- 
one judge you by what you eat or 
drink, or with regard to a religious fes- 
tival, a New Moon celebration or a 
Sabbath day” (niv). A more accurate 
rendering of sabbaton would be “Sab- 
baths” — plural rather than singular. 
This is important here, for the Hebrew 
religious calendar possessed not only 
seventh-day Sabbaths but also feast- 
day Sabbaths, which were to be cele- 
brated in exactly the same way as the 
Saturday Sabbath, regardless of what 
day in the week the first and last days 
of the feast might fall (especially in 
regard to the Feast of Unleavened 
Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles, 
both of which ran for eight days). 

The general purport of Colossians 
2:16 is that the distinctive holy days of 
the Old Testament are no longer bind- 
ing on New Testament believers be- 
cause “these are a shadow of the things 
that were to come; the reality, how- 
ever, is found in Christ” (v.17). Hence 
v.16 would seem to be referring 
primarily to obsolete Old Testament 
ordinances, of which the seventh-day 
Sabbath was one, and probably the 
feast-day Sabbath was another. 

There is no good reason to believe 
that Paul intended to include the 
Christian form of the fourth com- 
mandment, that is, Sunday observ- 
ance, as among the “shadows” that 
had already been fulfilled by Christ; 
the observance of the Lord’s Day could 
hardly be classified as an Old Testa- 
ment “shadow.” In point of fact, it was 
a contemporary Christian ordinance 
zealously observed by those who 
trusted in Christ, the “Reality” (soma 
literally means “body”), rather than in 
obsolete or obsolescent Old Testament 
types (or “shadows”). Therefore, it is 
altogether unwarranted to draw from 
this verse an unrestrained license to 
use the Lord’s Day any way one 
pleases. Church attendance and group 


120 




EXODUS 


Bible study are admittedly the most 
important elements in Sunday observ- 
ance, but the principle of rest from 
self-seeking labor (except for those in- 
volved in works of real necessity or 
mercy) is surely at the heart of hallow- 
ing the Lord’s Day — even in these days 
when the secularized culture around 
us holds that day in very low esteem. 

For additional study of this topic see 
D.A. Carson, From Sabbath to Lord’s 
Day (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982). 

Why is there so much killing of human be- 
ings mentioned in the Bible, along with 
the frequent references to animal sacrifice 
on the altar? How does this square with 
the divine command “Thou shalt not kill” 
(Exod. 20:13)? (D*) 

Since the Bible is a book about man 
in his state of sin, and since there is 
so much violence and bloodshed in 
human society, it was inevitable that 
frequent mention of manslaughter 
should occur in Scripture. But much 
confusion has arisen from the mislead- 
ing translation of Exodus 20:13 that 
occurs in most English versions. The 
Hebrew original uses a specific word 
for murder ( rasah ) in this sixth com- 
mandment and should be rendered 
“You shall not murder” (nasb). This 
is no prohibition against capital pun- 
ishment for capital crimes, since it 
is not a general term for the taking of 
life, such as our English word “kill” 
implies. Exodus 21:12, right in the 
very next chapter, reads: “He that 
smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be 
surely put to death.” This amounts to a 

( specific divine command to punish 
murder with capital punishment, in 
keeping with Genesis 9:6: "Whoever 
sheds man’s blood, by man his blood 
shall be shed, for in the image of God 
He made man" (nasb). 

Violence and bloodshed are occa- 
sionally mentioned in the record of 
man’s history throughout Scripture, 
but never with approval. Yet there 


were specific situations when entire 
communities (such as Jericho) or entire 
tribes (such as the Amalekites) were to 
be exterminated by the Israelites in 
obedience to God’s command. In each 
case these offenders had gone so far in 
degeneracy and moral depravity that 
their continued presence would result 
in spreading the dreadful cancer of sin 
among God’s covenant people. Just as 
the wise surgeon removes dangerous 
cancer from his patient’s body by use 
of the scalpel, so God employed the Is- 
raelites to remove such dangerous ma- 
lignancies from human society. So far 
as sacrificial animals were concerned, 
this mode of worship, symbolizing the 
coming sacrifice of the Son of God on 
the cross, was taught to our forebears 
from the time of Adam and sys- 
tematized for the believing community 
in the laws of Moses. "Without the 
shedding of blood, there is no remis- 
sion of sins” (Heb. 9:22). 

Why were there multiple marriages in 
Israel after the giving of the Ten Com- 
mandments? 

The seventh commandment says, 
“Thou shalt not commit adultery” 
(Exod. 20:14). How did this affect the 
patriarchs like Abraham, who was 
given Hagar by his own wife, Sarah, to 
serve as her proxy in the marriage 
bed? Or Jacob, who not only married 
Leah and Rachel but also had children 
by their maids Bilhah and Zilpah? 
Perhaps the fact that the Decalogue 
was not given to Israel until five cen- 
turies later may have lessened the guilt 
of their multiple marriages. But how 
about King David, who lived four cen- 
turies later? Second Samuel 12:7-8 ac- 
tually states that God "gave Saul’s wives 
into David’s arms" (cf. niv), as if God 
Himself condoned this polygamy. How 
do we reconcile this with the mo- 
nogamy that Jesus so clearly taught 
in Matthew 19:9 and which He as- 
serted to have been God’s intention 


121 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


from the very beginning of the human 
race? 

Genesis 2:23-24, as Christ pointed 
out, teaches monogamy as God’s will 
for man. After Adam was presented 
with his wife, Eve, the Bible records: 
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of 
my bones, and flesh of my flesh.’ . . . 
For this cause a man shall leave his 
father and his mother, and shall cleave 
to his wife; and they shall become 
one flesh” (nasb). Now there is no 
possibility of a husband’s constituting 
a unity with one wife if he also has 
another wife — or several others. This 
is made very clear by the analogy in 
Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is 
the head of the wife, as Christ also is 
head of the church, He Himself being 
the Savior of the body” (nasb). The 
implication here is that there is but one 
true church and that it stands in a rela- 
tionship to the heavenly Bridegroom 
like that of the wife toward her hus- 
band. Christ is not the Head of many 
different churches; He has but a single 
mystical body — not several different 
bodies — and therefore His one and 
only church is viewed as the antitype of 
monogamous marriage. Polygamy is 
absolutely excluded. 

As we examine the scriptural rec- 
ord, we come to the realization that 
every case of polygamy or concubinage 
amounted to a failure to follow God’s 
original model and plan. The very first 
reference to polygamy in Genesis is 
found in the life of Lamech son of 
Methushael, who, in addition to his 
bloodthirsty vindictiveness toward those 
with whom he had quarreled, is record- 
ed in Genesis 4:23-24 as boasting of his 
prowess to his two wives. After that 
there is no mention of plural marriage 
until the time of Abraham. 

In Abraham’s case, Sarah is always 
represented as being Abraham’s only 
legal wife as long as she lived. But 
when she became convinced that she 
could bear him no children of her own, 


she presented him with her maid 
Hagar, to be her proxy in the marriage 
bed. This meant that Hagar became a 
concubine to Abraham, not his law- 
fully wedded wife. But even this at- 
tempt to “help God” carry out His ear- 
lier promise, that Abraham would be- 
come the ancestor of a great nation, 
turned out to be a cause of great bit- 
terness and strife within their home; 
and ultimately Hagar had to be sent 
away, along with Abraham’s son by 
her, the lad Ishmael (Gen. 21:12-14). 

Abraham’s son Isaac was married to 
but one wife, Rebecca, and was faithful 
to her all his life. But their self-willed 
son Esau broke their heart by becom- 
ing involved in polygamy and by mar- 
rying out of the faith — both of Esau’s 
wives were pagans (Gen. 26:34). Later 
on Esau even took a third wife, 
Mahalath the daughter of his uncle 
Ishmael (Gen. 28:9) and Oholibamah 
as well (cf. Gen. 26). In so doing, Esau 
is not presented as a model for believ- 
ers to follow. 

In the case of Jacob, his only de- 
sire was for one woman, Rachel, the 
daughter of Laban. It was only through 
Laban’s crafty maneuvering that Jacob 
was tricked into marrying Rachel’s 
older sister, Leah, as well. Later on, 
as unhappy rivalry broke out between 
the two sisters in the matter of child- 
bearing, they resorted to Sarah’s mis- 
guided expedient of presenting their 
husband with their handmaids, Bilhah 
and Zilpah, to serve as proxies in the 
marriage bed. But so far as Jacob was 
concerned, there never was any de- 
sire on his part to become a poly- 
gamist. All he had done was fall in 
love with Rachel; and after that one 
thing led to another, until he had four 
sets of children. These of course be- 
came ancestors of the twelve tribes of 
Israel, and God was gracious enough 
to accept them all within His plan for 
multiplying the race of Abraham. But 
even the home of Jacob was a rather 


122 


EXODUS 


unhappy one at first, rent with jealousy 
and strife, and marked by cruelty and 
falsehood. 

This whole problem of polygamy in 
Old Testament times is not easy to 
handle. Yet it really should not be 
equated with adultery so as to make it a 
technical violation of the seventh 
commandment; for in Old Testament 
times when a man took a second wife, 
he bound himself to her as much as to 
his first wife. Thus all of David’s wives 
were equally “Mrs. David,” so to speak. 
The concubines were likewise an ex- 
clusive obligation for the man to cherish, 
support, and provide for in every way. 
This was a far different matter than 
entering into illicit relations with 
another man’s wife. So far as Saul’s 
wives were concerned — or the wives of 
any other deceased king, for that 
matter — they were normally entrusted 
to the protection and care of his suc- 
cessor. Otherwise a later marriage to a 
king’s widow might give the second 
husband a legal claim to the throne. 
(This was the reason Solomon was so 
alarmed by Adonijah’s proposal to 
marry King David’s youngest wife, 
Abishag; Solomon took this maneuver 
as part of a plot to overthrow him 
[1 Kings 2:22].) Therefore the rule was 
that once a woman became a king’s 
consort (whether as queen, secondary 
wife, or concubine), she had a right to 
retain that status even though her 
royal husband had died. His successor 
would take her over. Presumably, how- 
ever, a son would treat all his father’s 
wives as respected pensioners in the 
palace, rather than entering into in- 
cestuous relations with them. 

The fact of the matter was that while 
polygamy was contrary to God’s inten- 
tion and ideal, nevertheless, because of 
what Christ called “the hardness of 
men’s hearts” (Matt. 19:8), it was 
tolerated — especially in the case of a 
political leader whose dynasty would 
fail if he produced no son by his first 


wife. A state of civil war might well 
ensue from such a situation, with re- 
sulting bloodshed and disruption to 
the state. But then, of course, there 
were occasional references to plural 
marriages even in the case of private 
citizens, like Samuel’s father, Elkanah. 
In the course of time, however, a bet- 
ter understanding of God’s will in re- 
gard to marriage prevailed among 
God’s people. From the time of the re- 
turn from Babylonian exile (ca. 537 
B.c.) onward, there is no reference to 
polygamy among God’s people to be 
found in any of the post-Exilic books 
of the Old Testament. By Christ’s time 
monogamy was the rule among the 
Greeks and the Romans as well as 
among the Jews, and Christ’s affirma- 
tion of the “one flesh” principle of 
marriage (which makes sense only in a 
context of monogamy) found ready 
acceptance among His countrymen 
(Matt. 19:5-6). 

Norman Geisler has a good sum- 
mary of the biblical position on this 
question: 

There is ample evidence, even within 
the Old Testament, that polygamy was 
not God's ideal for man. That monog- 
amy was His ideal for man is obvious 
from several perspectives. (1) God made 
only one wife for Adam, thus setting 
the ideal precedent for the race. (2) 
Polygamy is first mentioned as part of 
the wicked Cainite civilization (Gen. 
4:23). (3) God clearly forbade the kings 
of Israel (leaders were the persons who 
became polygamists) saying, “And he 
shall not multiply wives for himself, lest 
his heart turn away again" (Deut. 17:17). 
(4) The saints who became polygamists 
paid for their sins. 1 Kings 1 1 : 1 ,3 says, 
"Now King Solomon loved many foreign 
women . . . and his wives turned away his 
heart.” ... (6) Polygamy is usually situ- 
ated in the context of sin in the O.T. 
Abraham's marriage of Hagar was 
clearly a carnal act of unbelief (Gen. 
16: 11). David was not at a spiritual peak 
when he added Abigail and Ahinoam as 


123 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


his wives (1 Sam. 25:42^13), nor was 
Jacob when he married Leah and Rachel 
(Gen. 29:23,28). (7) The polygamous re- 
lation was less than ideal. It was one of 
jealousy among the wives. Jacob loved 
Rachel more than Leah (Gen. 29:3 1). El- 
kanah's one wife was considered a “rival” 
or adversary by the other, who "used to 
provoke her sorely, to irritate her . . 

(1 Sam. 1:6). (8) When polygamy is re- 
ferred to, the conditional, not the im- 
perative, is used. "If he takes another 
wife to himself, he shall not diminish her 
food, her clothing, or her marital rights” 
(Exod. 2 1 : 10). Polygamy is not the moral 
ideal, but the polygamist must be moral 
(Ethics: Alternatives ancl Issues [Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1 97 1 J, pp. 204-5). 

What is the explanation of Exodus 24:9- 
11 — the revelation of God enthroned to 
the elders of Israel who accompanied 
Moses to Mount Sinai? (D*) 

According to Exodus 24: 1, the Lord 
invited the seventy appointed elders of 
the Twelve Tribes to accompany Mo- 
ses, Aaron, and his two sons, and to 
ascend the holy mountain for a certain 
distance up its slope, following at a 
suitable distance behind Moses. The 
purpose of this audience before the 
King of the Universe was to consecrate 
them for their holy task of assisting in 
the government of God’s people. 

It should be borne in mind that ac- 
cording to the earlier proclamation in 
Exodus 19:12-13, neither man nor 
beast was permitted even to touch or 
set foot on the holy mountain, under 
the penalty of death. Yet for this sol- 
emn occasion the seventy elders, along 
with Aaron and his sons, were permit- 
ted to gaze on the glory of God seated 
in blazing splendor on a sapphire 
throne. Normally they would have 
been struck dead for climbing even the 
lower reaches of Sinai, but in this case 
they were granted special permission 
to do so. Normally also it was impossi- 
ble for mortal man to look on the 
glorious presence of God directly. 


without being smitten with instant 
death: “For there shall no man see me, 
and live” (Exod. 33:20). And so it is 
stated in Exodus 24: 1 1 that “upon the 
nobles of the children of Israel he laid 
not his hand: also they saw God, and 
did not eat and drink.” That is to say, 
they all were permitted to partake of 
the sacred meal in view of God’s 
throne on Mount Sinai; and they sur- 
vived the exposure to His holy pres- 
ence without any damage to them- 
selves or loss of life. 

It should perhaps be added that 
what was seen in this theophany was a 
glorious representation of God in His 
regal splendor, not the essence of God 
Himself; for that has never been vouch- 
safed to human eyes (John 1:18). 

How can we reconcile Exodus 33:20, 
where the Lord tells Moses, “You cannot 
see My face, for no man can see Me and 
live!” and Exodus 33:11, which states, 
“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses 
face to face, just as a man speaks to his 
friend”? (D*) 

The Bible draws a clear distinction 
between gazing on God in His unveiled 
glory and beholding a representation 
or reflection of God in a personal 
interview or encounter with Him. John 
1:18 declares, “No man has seen God 
at any time [that is, his full glory as 
Greator and Sovereign of all the uni- 
verse]; the only begotten God [that is, 
Jesus Ghrist], who is in the bosom of 
the Father, He has explained Him” 
(nasb). The apostle Paul adds that God 
the Father “has shone in our hearts to 
give the light of the knowledge of the 
glory of God in the face of Christ” 
(2 Cor. 4:6, nasb). 

We behold the face of God by faith 
as we look to Christ, “He who has seen 
Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9, 
nasb). God therefore showed His face 
and declared His glory through His 
Son, who was God Incarnate. But back 
in Old Testament times, God showed 


124 


EXODUS 


His face through an angel (as at the 
interview with Moses at the burning 
bush [Exod. 3:2-6]), or else through 
His glory cloud, which led His people 
through the wilderness after the 
Exodus. 

At the dedication of the tabernacle 
(Exod. 40:34-35), this glory cloud 
(kabod) came to rest over the mercy 
seat of the ark of the covenant. Each 
week twelve loaves of sacred bread 
were offered to Yahweh on the table of 
“showbread,” which was called in He- 
brew sulhan w e lehem panim ("the table 
with the bread of the Presence”) be- 
cause it was presented in front of the 
inner curtain ( pard-ke-t ) that shielded 
the ark of the covenant from public 
view. The Presence (of God) remained 
over the mercy seat (kapporel), which 
surmounted the ark. 

We are therefore to understand that 
Yahweh met with Moses and talked to 


him in some glorious representation 
that fell short of a full unveiling of His 
face. In that sense He talked with 
Moses face to face — somewhat as a 
speaker on television speaks face to 
face with his viewing public. 

But what Moses was asking for in 
Exodus 33:18 went beyond this veiled 
appearance; to obtain full assurance of 
God’s renewed grace to him and to the 
Israelite nation, Moses asked to see the 
very face of God. God warned that at 
such a vision Moses would instantly die 
(see 1 Tim. 6:16, which states that God 
dwells “in unapproachable light”). Yet, 
as a special confirmation of His per- 
sonal favor and presence, Yahweh 
promised that He would reveal His 
back to Moses (Exod. 33:23), without 
showing His face. This Yahweh did 
when He passed by “in front of him” 
and set forth His gracious and glorious 
name (Exod. 34:6-7). 


125 


Leviticus 


Does the rabbit really chew its cud? 

Leviticus 11:5 refers to the sapan (or 
Hyrax syriacus) as an unclean animal 
(e.g., unfit for sacrifice or human con- 
sumption) because “though it chews 
cud, it does not divide the hoof” 
(nasb). Clean animals had to do both to 
be eligible for food. The question at 
issue is the chewing of the cud. Did (or 
does) the sapan (translated "coney” in 
kjv and "rock badger” in nasb) really 
"chew the cud” (Heb. ma'"leh gerah, 
lit., “raising up what has been~swal- 
lowed”)? Similarly in Leviticus 1 1:6 the 
same statement is made about the ’ar- 
nebet ("rabbit,” "hare”). Does the hare 
ruminate? The answer to both state- 
ments must be in the negative so far as 
the acutal digestive process is con- 
cerned. True ruminants normally have 
four stomachs, and that which has 
been worked over in these stomachs is 
regurgitated into the mouth when it is 
ready to be chewed again. 

In this technical sense neither the 
hyrax nor the hare can be called ru- 
minants, but they do give the appear- 
ance of chewing their cud in the same 
way ruminants do. So convincing is this 
appearance that even Linnaeus at first 
classed them as ruminants, even 
though the four-stomach apparatus 
was lacking. But we need to remember 
that this list of forbidden animals was 
intended to be a practical guide for the 
ordinary Israelite as he was out in the 
wilds looking for food. He might well 


conclude from the sideways movement 
of the jaws that these animals rumi- 
nated like the larger cattle; and since 
they fed on the same kind of grass and 
herbs, they might well be eligible for 
human consumption. Thus it was 
necessary to point out that they did not 
have hooves at all and therefore could 
not meet the requirements for clean 
food. 

G.S. Cansdale gives this interesting 
information concerning the habits of 
the ’arnebet: 

Hares, like rabbits, are now known to 
practice “refection”: at certain times of 
day, when the hare is resting, it passes 
droppings of different texture, which it 
at once eats. Thus the hare appears to be 
chewing without taking fresh greens into 
its mouth. On its first passage through 
the gut, indigestible vegetable matter is 
acted on by bacteria and can be better 
assimilated the second time through. 
Almost the same principle is involved as 
in chewing the cud (“Hare," in Tenney, 
Zundervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 3:33). 

How could leprosy affect clothing (Lev. 
13:47-59) or house walls (Lev. 14:33-57)? 

What is commonly known today as 
“leprosy” is usually equated with Han- 
sen’s disease. But the Hebrew term sa- 
ra'at is a far more general term for any 
kind of noticeable or disfiguring skin 
disease. Many of the types described in 
Leviticus 13:2-42 show symptoms un- 
known to Hansen’s disease, such as 


126 


LEVITICUS 


patches of white skin and areas of in- 
fection on the scalp. Verse 6 refers to a 
type of skin disease that is known, 
in some cases at least, to show spon- 
taneous improvement within a week 
(which is never true of Hansen’s dis- 
ease). Verses 7-8 seem to refer to a 
phagedenic ulcer; v.24 to an infection 
in a burned area of the skin. Verse 30 
refers to a scaly skin or scalp, strongly 
suggestive of psoriasis. 

From the above data we may legiti- 
mately conclude that sara'at does not 
refer to any single type of skin disease 
(although Naaman’s illness was quite 
certainly akin to Hansen’s disease 
[2 Kings 5], likewise the affliction Uzziah 
was stricken with in the temple 
(2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chron. 26:19-20]); 
rather, it is a broadly descriptive term 
covering all kinds of disfiguring dis- 
eases of the skin or scalp. 

As for Leviticus 13:47,59, these 
verses speak of sara'at on a garment or 
any piece of clothing. Obviously this 
cannot be the same as a skin disease 
afflicting the human skin. But a fun- 
gus or mold that attacks a fabric of 
cloth or leather or fur bears a surface 
resemblance to that which afflicts the 
skin. Because of its tendency to spread 
on contact and because of its highly 
disfiguring effect, this kind of sara'at 
had to be sequestered, to see whether it 
was something that could be washed 
away completely and permanently by a 
thorough scrubbing or laundering 
process. If these measures proved un- 
availing, the fabric in question was to 
be destroyed by fire. 

As for Leviticus 14:33-57, the type 
of sara'at that afflicts the wall of a 
home seems to have been a kind of 
fungus, bacteria, or mold that occa- 
sionally appears on adobe walls, or 
even on wood, when the humidity is 
abnormally high and long sustained at 
temperatures that promote the spread 
of mold. Since the fungus could spread 
quite rapidly, mar the appearance of 
the entire room, and was possibly 


promotive of other kinds of pollution 
and disease, it was necessary to deal 
with it as soon as it was detected. The 
afflicted areas of the wall were to be 
thoroughly scrubbed, scraped, and 
scoured, to see whether the mold could 
be eliminated and killed by these meas- 
ures. Where mold had penetrated an 
individual brick or a particular patch 
in the wall, it was to be pried out and 
discarded completely, to keep the ad- 
jacent bricks from contamination. But 
if these drastic methods proved to be 
unavailing, then the entire house was 
to be destroyed. 

There was always a suitable waiting 
period before a house was destroyed, 
generally of a week or two, at the end 
of which a confirmatory inspection was 
to be made by a priest. The same was 
true of “leprosy” on clothing or on the 
human skin. Inspections were to be 
made at the end of the first week or 
two in order to see whether the infec- 
tion had been halted or whether it was 
continuing to spread. In all three cases 
or types of leprosy (sara'at), a cere- 
mony or rite of purification was re- 
quired, which is described in some 
detail in Leviticus 13-14. 

Who is the scapegoat of Leviticus 16? Or 
what does it represent? (D*) 

Leviticus 16 sets forth the procedure 
to be followed on the Day of Atone- 
ment (Yom Kippur), the tenth day of 
Tishri (usually late in September) each 
year. There were to be two goats set 
aside for this ceremony, one for a sin 
offering ( hattat-h ) and the other for a 
burnt offering (‘olah). The former of 
the two was to be sacrificed on the al- 
tar, according to the usual require- 
ment for sin offerings. But the latter 
was chosen by lot to be a live sacrifice, 
called za’zel , a term that perhaps 
should be vocalized as ‘ez ’azel (“a goat 
of departure”). (It should be under- 
stood that the Old Testament was orig- 
inally written with consonants only; 


127 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


vowel points were not added until 
about a.d. 800. In the case of proper 
names or obsolete technical terms, 
there was always a chance for a bit of 
confusion in the oral tradition con- 
cerning the vowels.) The Septuagint 
follows this latter reading, translating 
the Hebrew into the Greek as chimaros 
apopompaios (“the goat to be sent 
away”). 

The high priest was to lay his hands 
on the head of this goat, confess over 
him the sins of the nation Israel, and 
then send him away into the wilder- 
ness, symbolically carrying away all the 
guilt of Israel with him (Lev. 16:21). 
The tradition that the scapegoat was a 
name for a desert demon was of much 
later origin and quite out of keeping 
with the redemptive principles taught 
in the Torah. It is therefore altogether 
mistaken to suppose that the scapegoat 
represented Satan himself, for neither 


Satan nor his demons are ever sug- 
gested in Scripture as carrying out 
any atoning functions on behalf of 
mankind — as such an interpretation 
would imply. 

On the contrary, each sacrificial 
animal referred to in the Mosaic Law 
symbolized some aspect of Christ’s 
atoning work. The goat of the sin of- 
fering represented the substitution of 
Christ’s blameless life for the guilty life 
of the condemned sinner. In the case 
of the scapegoat, the removal of sin 
from the presence of God is set forth. 
As the Father laid the sins of believers 
on the Son on the cross (Isa. 53:6) so 
that they might be removed far away, 
so the 'ez ’ azel , on whom all the in- 
iquities of Israel were symbolically laid 
by Aaron, carried them away into the 
wilderness to be remembered against 
them no more. 


128 


Numbers 


How trustworthy are statistical numbers 
given in the Book of Numbers and in the 
Old Testament generally? 

Some scholars have questioned the 
credibility of the numbers recorded in 
the two censuses of Numbers (chaps. 
1 -4 and 26). The arid conditions of the 
Sinai desert would hardly permit the 
survival of such a large host as 600,000 
adult males, plus their wives and chil- 
dren, for a period of forty years. If, 
therefore, these statistics concerning the 
number of fighting men connected 
with each of the Twelve Tribes are to 
be accepted as having any historical 
basis whatever, we must then somehow 
reduce the total to a much smaller 
number than 2 million people or more 
and achieve an approximation within 
the limits of historical likelihood. 
Writers like G. Mendenhall (JBL 77 
[1958]: 52-66), John Bright ( History of 
Israel [Philadelphia: Westminster, 
1959], p. 144), and R.E.D. Clark 
( Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria 
Institute 87 [1955]: 82ff.) suggest read- 
ing the word for “thousand” as merely 
clan.” R.K. Harrison ( Old Testament 
Introduction, p. 633), despite his gener- 
ally conservative stance, surrenders the 
historical accuracy of these figures, 
suggesting that they have only a rela- 
tive value as to the comparative size of 
the various tribes. 

The word for “thousand” is the He- 
brew ’elep, which may have some origi- 
nal connection with the word for 


“bull.” Although there is no clear oc- 
currence of ’elep with the meaning 
“family” or “clanTo be found in all the 
Hebrew Scriptures (so Brown- 
Driver-Briggs, Lexicon, pp. 48^19), yet 
the related noun 'allup means “chief,” 
“commander of a thousand troops”; 
and there are some other passages that 
could be using the plural ’ alap i"‘ in the 
sense of a subdivision of a tribe (cf. 
Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon, p. 57). 
This is a most tenuous basis on which 
to erect a theory allowing for reduc- 
tion; but if in these census chapters of 
Numbers one could render ’ a lapim as 
“family complex” or “clan,” then 
perhaps the total number of Israelite 
men-at-arms could be lowered to about 
30,000. This would involve a much 
smaller number of mouths to feed and 
bodies to sustain during the many 
years of desert wandering. So goes the 
argument. 

There are some fatal difficulties, 
however, that render this theory quite 
untenable. In the first place, it always 
happens that after the number of 
’ a ldpim is cited, it is followed by the 
number of meat (“hundreds”) as the 
next lower unit; and then it is followed 
by the decades and digits in descend- 
ing order. Thus the first record given 
is that of the adult males of the tribe of 
Reuben (Num. 1:21): sissah w e ’arbd‘im 
’elep wah a mes me’dt (lit., “six and forty 
thousand and five hundreds”). This 
being the case, there is no way that 
’elap in this total figure could have 


129 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


meant 46 clans (or families) and 500. 
Clearly the figure intended is 46,500. 
That such was the intention of the He- 
brew author is rendered absolutely 
certain by the total of the “ransom 
money” raised from the male popula- 
tion of Israel according to Exodus 
38:25: “100 talents and 1 ,775 shekels.” 
Each man was to contribute half a 
shekel; there were 3000 shekels to the 
talent. Therefore, 100 talents and 
1,775 shekels comes out to exactly 
603,550 half-shekels (representing the 
same number of males, according to 
Num. 2:32). This total is confirmed by 
Exodus 12:37: “about 600,000 men on 
foot.” Hence there has been no error 
in translation, nor any demonstrable 
garbling in transmission. 

The objection that the natural re- 
sources of the Sinai desert could never 
have supported two million people or 
more for a period of forty years’ wan- 
dering is absolutely valid. But it com- 
pletely overlooks what the Pentateuch 
makes abundantly clear: Israel did not 
receive its food and drink from the or- 
dinary natural resources of the Sinai 
terrain. This multitude was said to 
have been supplied in a miraculous 
way with manna from the sky and 
water from the cloven rock, all during 
the journey through the wilderness. 
The God who led the Israelites in the 
pillar of cloud was the one who 
supplied them with their nourishment 
by way of a supernatural intervention 
on their behalf. Apart from this, 
30,000 would have perished of hunger 
and thirst in that wilderness just as 
quickly as 600,000; and it is quite futile 
to sidestep the factor of miracle by a 
mere reduction in numbers. 

What we are dealing with here is the 
possibility of miracle. Miracles are re- 
corded from the first chapter of the 
Bible to the last. Apart from the su- 
preme miracle of God the Son becom- 
ing incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, 
there is no gospel to preach or cross of 
Calvary to believe in. In fact, there is 


little point in bothering with the Bible 
at all, for its presuppositions are mir- 
aculous from start to finish. If all 
these miraculous events never really 
took place, then the Bible is too un- 
trustworthy to be believed; it is only 
another sample of human speculation. 
No valid objection can be raised, there- 
fore, on the ground that a biblical epi- 
sode is miraculous in nature; and any 
line of argument or reinterpretation 
that presupposes the impossibility of 
miracle is a mere exercise in futility. 

The credibility of a Hebrew host in 
excess of two million souls has been 
called in question by some authorities 
on the ground of the remarkably low 
number of firstborn sons as recorded 
in Numbers 3:42^3: “So Moses num- 
bered all the first-born among the sons 
of Israel, just as the Lord had com- 
manded him; and all the first-born 
males by the number of names from a 
month old and upward, for their 
numbered men were 22,273” (nasb). 
Quite obviously there must have been 
a far greater number of firstborn sons 
in Moses’ congregation, numbering 
as it did over 600,000 men. But this 
apparent difficulty disappears when 
the setting of this incident is carefully 
examined. 

It was apparently in the second year 
of the wilderness journey (cf. Num. 
1:1), after the census of the Twelve 
Tribes and the tribe of Levi had been 
completed, that the Lord ordered 
Moses to number all the firsborn of the 
non-Levites and determine how many 
more of them there were than the 
number of the Levites themselves. The 
purpose of this was to compute how 
large a ransom offering should be con- 
tributed to the Lord’s work, to com- 
pensate for the fact that the Levites to- 
taled a little less than 10 percent of the 
total male population of Israel. Since 
there were 22,000 Levites (Num. 3:39) 
but 22,273 firstborn non-Levites 
(v.43), this meant that an offering of 
22,273 times five shekels had to be 


130 


NUMBERS 


raised for the excess number of non- 
Levites. (This is actually the origin of 
the so-called temple tax, which is still 
observed by worldwide Jewry today.) 

Delitzsch (Keil and Delitzsch, Pen- 
tateuch, 3:9-13) points out that this re- 
quirement only applied to those babies 
born after the start of the Exodus; it 
was never intended to be retroactive. 
Well, then, out of a total of 603,550 
males, there would within a year or so 
be a total of about 19,000 new mar- 
riages. If some of these allowed for 
two gestation periods, the probable 
number of births for male babies 
would be 22,000 or a few more. This 
agrees very well with the exact figure 
given of 22,273. 

Another basis for postulating a small 
population among the Hebrews in 
Goshen is the record in Exodus 1:15, 
that two midwives were sufficient to 
handle all the obstetrical cases within 
the community. This observation is 
quite valid. Far more than two mid- 
wives would be necessary to care for a 
population of over two million. But 
surely this fact would have been just as 
obvious to an eighth-century b.c. au- 
thor (like the putative “Elohist”) as it is 
to us. Two mid wives would have 
hardly been able to care for even 
30,000 males plus wives and children. 
Quite obviously Shiphrah and Puah 
served as administrative superinten- 
dents over the obstetrical guild for the 
entire Hebrew community. It is hardly 
conceivable that the entire corps of 
midwives would have reported per- 
sonally to the king himself; on the con- 
trary, the king maintained control of 
their activities through approved over- 
seers. This is quite in keeping with 
what we know of the highly bureau- 
cratic structure of the ancient Egyptian 
government. Their documents refer to 
overseers (the Egyptian term was imy-r, 
“he who is in the mouth” of his em- 
ployer or overlord) for nearly every 
craft, profession, or skill known to 
Egyptian society. They were all re- 


sponsible to report to and take orders 
from the government of the district in 
which they served. This makes the ar- 
gument based on the small number of 
midwives completely invalid. 

Another difficulty that has been 
proposed against the credibility of a 
congregation of over two million is 
derived from the amount of time nec- 
essary for so large a multitude to pro- 
gress from point to point in their 
journey as they are said to have done 
according to the Pentateuchal narrative. 
How, for example, could such a large 
horde of people get across the Red Sea 
(or “Sea of Reeds,” as the Hebrew puts 
it) so quickly as Exodus 14:21-24 
seems to suggest? The parching east 
wind partially dried up the sea bed (af- 
ter the waters had been miraculously 
removed to some distance above and 
below their point of crossing) for an 
entire night (v.21); and only after that, 
it would seem, did the Israelites make 
their way across. 

It may have been by the fourth 
watch (i.e., 3:00 to 6:00 a.m.) of the 
following day that the Egyptian chari- 
ots began their crossing in pursuit 
of them. This means that the Hebrew 
host had barely twenty-four hours to 
make the passage. This would seem to 
be quite impossible if they had to keep 
to a paved highway of any sort as they 
made their advance. But in this situa- 
tion there could have been no roads or 
highways at all (for what point would 
there be for a street leading into the 
waters of a sea?); and they had to pro- 
ceed across directly over unpaved ter- 
rain from wherever they happened to 
be located in their overnight camp. 
Their maneuver would be just like that 
of an army advancing to do battle with 
an enemy host: their front line may 
have stretched out for two or three 
miles as they moved together simul- 
taneously, livestock included. Hence 
there would have been very little time 
lost through waiting in line. The whole 
multitude simply moved ahead like 


131 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


one enormous army advancing against 
an enemy battle line. If this was the 
way it was done, then there is no time 
problem to deal with. 

The same observation applies to the 
day-by-day journeys of the Israelites 
during the forty years’ wandering. If 
they had been packed up close to- 
gether in one long column when they 
camped down for the night, then it 
would have taken several hours for their 
rearmost detachments to get moving 
after the journey had began for the van- 
guard. But we know from Numbers 
2:3-31 that they camped down in the 
formation of a square, with three tribes 
to the east of the tabernacle, three to the 
south, three to the west, and three to 
the north. Thus they were distributed 
like a huge expeditionary force, with 
center, two wings, a vanguard, and a 
rearguard. When armies engaged each 
other in battle, they did not require 
much time before they engaged their 
front lines in hand-to-hand combat. 
They did not look around for paved 
roads but simply proceeded across the 
broken, rough terrain (if they had to) 
with their ranks carefully preserved in 
line. There were virtually no paved 
highways to be found in the Sinai 
(apart from the King’s Highway, 
perhaps), and such as there were 
would only be used for wheeled 
vehicles — of which the Israelites had 
very few indeed, If, then, they began 
to move simultaneously after the signal 
trumpet was blown at the start of the 
day’s march, they could very easily 
cover ten miles or more without over- 
driving the young of the livestock. 
They had no need to wait in line for 
their turn to move. 

Considerable skepticism has been 
voiced by rationalist scholarship in 
regard to the historicity of such 
large armies as are referred to in subse- 
quent periods of Israel’s history. For 
example, at the Battle of Mareshah 
(2 Chron. 14:8-12), King Asa of Judah 
is said to have faced Zerah the Ethiopian 


with 580,000 troops against the in- 
vader’s host of 1,000,000. Or again, 
back in David’s time the Ten Tribes 
had 800,000 men at arms and Judah 
500,000 — which made up a total of 
1,300,000 for the standing army and 
the militia in the early tenth century 
b.c. King Pekah of Israel slew 120,000 
Judean troops in a single engagement 
and led off 200,000 more as cap- 
tives, back in the reign of King Ahaz 
(2 Chron. 28:6-8). Modern scholars 
tend to cast doubt on these large num- 
bers, feeling that the Chronicler especi- 
ally was given to frequent exaggeration 
in his zeal to glorify Israel’s past. 

In answer to these charges of statisti- 
cal unreliability, we make the following 
observations. 

1. The ancient author, living within a 
few hundred years of the events he 
describes — or else even writing as a 
contemporary — is far more likely to 
be in secure possession of the facts 
than a modern skeptic who is sepa- 
rated from the event by three 
thousand years or more. 

2. Modern criteria of likelihood or un- 
likelihood, if founded on the as- 
sumption that the unusual never 
happens, are virtually useless. If 
history teaches us anything, it 
teaches us that most of the major 
events of the past took place be- 
cause the unlikely and unusual ac- 
tually occurred. 

3. Deductions based on recent obser- 
vation and experience may lead to 

. completely false results. It is unwar- 
ranted to assume from the climatic 
conditions that have prevailed in 
the Holy Land since a.d. 500 that 
the land was never more fertile nor 
could not have supported a large 
population in earlier times. The ar- 
chaeological and geological evi- 
dence seems to indicate that the 
precipitation rates have fluctuated 
quite markedly since the third mil- 
lennium b.c. The weather diary 


132 


NUMBERS 


kept by Claudius Ptolemaeus in 
Alexandria, Egypt, during the first 
century a.d. shows that in his time 
the summer drought was shorter 
than at present, with much greater 
thunderstorm activity and more of 
the north wind prevalent during 
the winter than at present (cf. Denis 
Baly, Geography of the Bible, rev. ed. 
[New York: Harper, 1974], pp. 
66-67). The indications are that 
dry, hot conditions prevailed from 
4500 to 3500 b.c.; cooler, damper 
weather prevailed from 3500 to 
2300; followed by 300 years of 
drought (as witness Abraham’s 
sojourn in Egypt). A better rainfall 
ensued from 2000 onward, though 
increased human activity has ob- 
scured the evidence for the real 
extent of the fluctuation from one 
century to another (ibid., p. 68). 
But such variables as these make it 
quite likely that the frequent de- 
scription of fifteenth century Ca- 
naan as a “land flowing with milk 
and honey” points to an appreciably 
higher precipitation level in Moses’ 
time than was true back in Abra- 
ham’s time. The more fertile and 
productive the arable land became, 
the larger a population it could sus- 
tain. 

4. Other ancient sources attest to the 
use of very large armies when mili- 
tary projects of special magnitude 
were under way. The Egyptian rec- 
ords are of little help in this con- 
nection, for apart from the Sixth- 
Dynasty inscription of Uni (Pritch- 
ard, ANET, p. 228), which states 
that King Pepi I sent into Asia an 
expeditionary force consisting of 
“many ten-thousands,” the Pha- 
raohs contended themselves with 
lists of prisoners taken from the 
enemy. Even Thutmose III in his 
account of the Battle of Megiddo 
(ca. 1468 b.c.) neglects to men- 
tion the size of the armies involved 
(ibid., p. 235). The same is true 


of Ramses II in his self-laudatory 
report of the stalemate Battle of 
Kadesh, in which he halted the 
southward advance of the Hittites; 
he simply refers to three separate 
army divisions that are involved 
in the conflict (ibid., pp. 255-56). 
As for the Assyrian records, the 
Assyrian kings never seem to refer 
to the size of their own armed 
forces but pretty largely confine 
themselves to the number of ene- 
my slain or prisoners taken. In 
his account of the Battle of Kar- 
kar, however, which he fought with 
Benhadad and Ahab in 853, Shal- 
maneser III states that Adadizri (as 
he calls Benhadad) had 20,000 in- 
fantry, 1,200 cavalry, and 1,200 
chariots; Ahab had 10,000 foot sol- 
diers and 2000 chariots; the king of 
Hamath contributed 10,000 infan- 
try, 700 cavalry, and 700 chariots 
(ibid., pp. 278-79). There were 
besides various smaller contingents 
from nine other kings arrayed 
against the Assyrians at Karkar; 
Shalmaneser claims to have killed 
14,000 of them and to have chased 
the rest away. In another engage- 
ment he states that he slew 20,900 
of “Hadaezer’s” warriors (ibid., p. 
280). Sennacherib in his 701 cam- 
paign against Hezekiah and his 
Philistine allies claims to have de- 
ported 200,150 prisoners taken 
from forty-six walled cities of Judah 
and taken them off as prisoners to 
Assyria (ibid., p. 288). His father, 
Sargon II, took 27,290 captives 
from Samaria back in 721 (ibid., 
p. 285). There are no figures at 
all given for the Persian troops in 
the Behistun Rock inscription of 
Darius I (ca. 495 B.c.). 

As for the Greek historians, 
Herodotus (Historia 7) states that 
when Xerxes, king of Persia, re- 
viewed his troops for the invasion 
of Greece, “the whole land army to- 
gether was found to amount to 


133 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


1,700,000 men.” This total was ar- 
rived at by marshaling 10,000 sol- 
diers at a time, until all the men had 
been counted. The naval forces 
included 1,207 triremes, with speci- 
fied contingents from Egypt, Cy- 
prus, Phoenicia, and many other 
maritime areas. As for the battle 
contingents involved in the cam- 
paigns of Alexander the Great, the 
largest conflict in which he was en- 
gaged was probably the Battle of 
Gaugamela in 331 b.c. Arrian esti- 
mated the infantry of Darius III at 
about 1,000,000, plus 40,000 cav- 
alry. Alexander defeated him with 
only 40,000 infantry and 7000 
cavaliers (Charles Anthon, A Classi- 
cal Dictionary, Containing an Account 
of the Principal Proper Names Men- 
tioned in Ancient Authors [New York: 
Harper & Bros., 1871], p. 107). 

From these records we learn that 
even the army of Zerah the Ethiopian 
was by no means incredible in size for a 
major invasion force (cf. 2 Chron. 
14:9). From the number of prisoners 
deported by the Assyrians, we gather 
that there was a rather high population 
level maintained in Palestine during 
the eighth and seventh centuries b.c. It 
is therefore a mistake to draw in- 
ferences from archaeological remains 
— as some scholars have done — that 
indicate a comparatively sparse pop- 
ulation for the Near East during 
this period. One very interesting 
discovery from the recent excava- 
tions at Ebla includes a set of cunei- 
form tablets (published by G. Pet- 
tinato and P. Matthiae, in “Aspetti 
Amministrativi e Topografici di Ebla 
nel III Millennio Av. Cr.,” Rivista degli 
Studi Orientali 50 [1976]: 1-30), one of 
which lists the superintendents and 
prefects of the four major divisions of 
the capital city itself back in 2400 b.c. 
From these data the estimated popula- 
tion of Ebla was about 260,000 (cf. 
Heinrich von Siebenthal, Die lionig- 


lichen Tontafelarchive von Tell Mardikh- 
Ebla n.38, trans. into French by 
Suzanne Ruckstuhl, and appears as 
app. 4 in G. Archer, Introduction a I'An- 
cien Testament, Edition Emmaus [Swit- 
zerland: St. -Legier, 1978], pp. 570- 
85; cf. also G. Pettinato, “The Royal 
Archives of Tell Mardikh-Ebla,” Bibli- 
cal Archeologist 39 [2, 1976]: 44-52). 
This renders quite credible the im- 
plied population of Nineveh in Jonah’s 
day: “120,000 persons who do not 
know their right hand from their left” 
(Jonah 4:11) — i.e., infants and tod- 
dlers. This would indicate a total of 
nearly 1,000,000 inhabitants in Greater 
Nineveh alone. 

All these ancient references to high 
population seem to remove any Firm 
base for the skepticism of modern crit- 
ics who question the accuracy of the 
Figures given in the Old Testament. At 
the same time it is noteworthy that the 
Hebrew historical accounts seem to be 
almost unique among the extant litera- 
ture of the ancient Near East in giving 
the numbers of soldiers involved in the 
various invasions and battles therein 
recorded. It goes without saying that 
it is rather difficult to make a well- 
documented comparison between Is- 
raelite and non-Israelite accounts of 
numbers involved in warfare or in 
national censuses when there are 
virtually no comparable accounts that 
have yet come to light from pagan 
sources from the same period. 

Did the Levites enter their service in the 
sanctuary at the age of thirty (Num. 4:3), 
twenty-five (Num. 8:24), or twenty (Ezra 
3:8)? 

Numbers 4:3 states quite explicitly, 
“From thirty years and upward, even 
to Fifty years old, [are] all [the Levites] 
who enter the service to do the work in 
the tent of meeting” (nasb). Eligibility 
for full service in assisting the priests in 
the transportation and upkeep of the 
furniture and holy vessels of the taber- 


134 


NUMBERS 


nacle was restricted to those who were 
at least thirty years of age. 

In Numbers 8:24, however, it is 
stated in connection with their service 
at the sanctuary: “This is what applies 
to the Levites: from twenty-five years 
old and upward they shall enter to per- 
form service in the work of the tent of 
meeting” (nasb). Jamieson (Jamieson- 
Fausett-Brown, Commentary, ad loc.) 
suggests: “They entered on their work 
in their twenty-fifth year as pupils 
and probationers, under the super- 
intendence and direction of their 
senior brethren; and at thirty they 
were admitted to the full discharge of 
their official functions.” This in- 
ference, drawn from a careful com- 
parison of the two passages, seems to 
be altogether reasonable. It furnishes 
an analogy to the training period 
through which candidates for the gos- 
pel ministry are expected to pass be- 
fore they receive full ordination, with 
the right to baptize or perform wed- 
ding ceremonies and the like. 

For five years the younger Levites 
had an opportunity to observe the pro- 
cedures and guiding principles fol- 
lowed by those engaged in full Levitical 
responsibility — the proper method of 
moving the lampstand, the table of 
showbread, the two altars, and so on — 
and the proper disposition of the bowls 
and jars, the spoons and snuffers, the 
holy oil and the water of purification, 
and all the rest. There were also chores 
related to the upkeep of the tabernacle 
grounds and the service to the wor- 
shipers who came to sacrifice at the 
altar. Apparently young Samuel, even 
as a lad much younger than twenty- 
five, was involved in such duties, with 
particular responsibilities as Eli’s house- 
boy (1 Sam. 3:1). In other words, there 
were many different types and grades 
of service to be cared for by underage 
Levites, even before they were old 
enough to enter their apprenticeship 
at the age of twenty-five. 

As for the Levites referred to in Ezra 


3:8, two factors need to be carefully 
noted. The first is that in both Ezra 
2:40 and Nehemiah 7:43 the number 
of Levites involved in the return from 
Babylon was only 74. There was a sub- 
stantially larger number of gatekeep- 
ers and temple servants, and the 
priests who joined in the return to 
Jerusalem numbered 4,289 (Ezra 
2:36-39). Therefore the Levites were 
in short supply, and it would have been 
appropriate to involve even the 
younger men (between twenty and 
twenty-five years of age) in order to 
provide an adequate number of Leviti- 
cal overseers for the builders who were 
engaged in restoring the temple. 

The second factor to note is that 
these Levites were not really engaged 
in the ministry of sacrifice and wor- 
ship; they were only concerned with 
the building project as advisers or 
foremen. There was no sanctuary as 
yet in which they could officiate; so 
the question of being younger than 
twenty-five would hardly be raised at 
all. Thus there is no real discrepancy 
or contradiction in regard to the three 
age-limits given in the passage cited 
above, for each deals with a different 
level of authority. 

How could God punish the Israelites for 
eating the quail He had miraculously pro- 
vided as their food (Num. 11:31-34)? 

If we read the whole account of 
Numbers 1 1 carefully, we can under- 
stand why God was so highly dis- 
pleased with the Hebrew malcontents 
who were tired of His daily supply of 
manna and longed for meat and veg- 
etables in their diet (vv.4-9). Moses 
himself was so disgusted at their com- 
plaining ingratitude that he was ready 
to resign from his responsibility of 
leadership. God thereupon encour- 
aged him to delegate leadership to a 
supporting team of seventy godly el- 
ders, and then He told them how He 
would deal with their rebellious dis- 


135 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


content. He would give them what they 
were asking for, thus bringing them to 
see how foolish they were to despise 
the good and sufficient food He had 
apportioned them in favor of that 
which they chose for themselves. As 
Psalm 106:15 recalls the episode: “He 
gave them their request, but sent a 
wasting disease among them [or, ‘lean- 
ness into their soul’]” (nasb). In other 
words, in order to teach them a 
much-needed lesson, God saw fit to 
give the discontented rabble exactly 
what they asked for — rather than that 
which would be best for them. 

The result was that an enormous 
flight of quail were blown into the en- 
campment at a height of two cubits 
(about three feet) above the surface of 
the ground (v.31). (The preposition ‘ a I 
before "the surface of the ground” 
should be rendered “above,” as niv 
correctly renders it, rather than “on.”) 
Flying at that low level, forced down by 
the strong wind, it was easy for the Is- 
raelites to bat them down with sticks 
and catch as many quail as they 
wanted — even to the amount of ten 
homers (about sixty bushels). But, of 
course, such a huge number of dead 
birds would speedily begin to rot in 
that hot desert, despite the people’s 
best efforts to convert them into dried 
meat that could be preserved indefi- 
nitely by parching them under the sun 
(v.32). There is little wonder that they 
began to suffer from food poisoning 
and disease as soon as they began 
chewing this unaccustomed food. In 
the end a great many of them died of 
plague and had to be buried right 
there in the desolate wilderness, at 
Qibrot Hatt’"vah, “The Graves of 
Greed.” 

How can Numbers 12:3, with its emphasis 
on Moses’ humility, be an authentic com- 
ment from Moses’ own pen? 

Apart from Deuteronomy 34 (which 
must have been an obituary written 


after Moses’ death), no passage in the 
Pentateuch has been more frequently 
cited as an evidence of non-Mosaic au- 
thorship than this verse. After the chal- 
lenge to Moses’ unique authority as 
God’s spokesman (recorded in Num. 
12:1-2), the humility statement occurs 
in v.3: "Now the man Moses was very 
humble, more than any man who was 
on the face of the earth.” Unquestion- 
ably the first impression made by this 
judgment on the great leader’s charac- 
ter is that it was contributed as a bio- 
graphical note made by some admirer 
who knew him well, rather than by 
Moses concerning himself. M.G. Kyle 
(“Moses,” International Standard Bible 
Encyclopedia [Grand Rapids: Eerd- 
mans, 1939], p. 2090) tends to favor 
this explanation; even Jamieson (Jam- 
ieson-Fausset-Brown, ad loc.) allows 
for the possibility of its insertion here 
by some later prophet. But he also 
cites the parallel of Paul in 2 Corin- 
thians 1 1 :5; 12:11-12, where the apostle 
is compelled by the insolence and 
contempt of his detractors to empha- 
size the distinguishing excellence of 
his own character. 

Likewise Elmer Smick ( Wycliffe Bible 
Commentary, p. 129) allows for the pos- 
sibility that this comment may have 
been contributed by a “divinely in- 
spired sholer ([Num.] 11:16).” Yet 
he points out that this chapter “teaches 
that the prophet had so intimate a 
relationship with God that he could 
speak the truth objectively, as it was 
revealed to him, even when it regarded 
his own nature.” 

Haley (Alleged Discrepancies, p. 248) 
makes this observation: 

Moses, under the impulse of the Holy 
Spirit, was writing history "objectively.” 
Hence he speaks as freely of himself as 
he would of any other person. It is also 
to be observed that he records his own 
faults and sins with the same fidelity and 
impartiality. It is remarked by Calmet: 
"As he praises himself here without 
pride, so he will blame himself elsewhere 


136 


NUMBERS 


with humility.” The objectionable words 
were inserted to explain why it was that 
Moses took no steps to vindicate himself, 
and why, consequently, the Lord so 
promptly intervened. 

It certainly must be conceded that in 
other ancient autobiographies where 
the author speaks of himself in the 
third person, self-evaluations occur 
that seem to be rather surprising; for 
they stand in contrast to the author’s 
usual references to his own character. 
Thus in Julius Caesar’s “Civil War” 
(The Alexandrian War 75), he speaks of 
his own discomfiture at the unex- 
pected attack of the troops of Phar- 
naces in Pontus, saying: “Caesar was 
startled by this incredible rashness — or 
self-confidence. He was caught off 
guard and unprepared; he was simul- 
taneously calling the troops away from 
the fortification work [which they had 
been engaged in], ordering them to 
arm, deploying the legions and form- 
ing the battle-line.” In other words, 
Caesar had misjudged the enemy and 
therefore had been caught “flat- 
footed,” as it were. Ordinarily Caesar 
presents himself as a paragon of 
foresightedness and a master strate- 
gist; so this derogatory comment about 
himself comes as a real surprise. 

So far as Numbers 12:3 is con- 
cerned, it should be observed that 
Moses’ failure to speak in his own de- 
fense, even when put under great 
pressure by Aaron and Miriam to lose 
his temper, calls for special explana- 
tion. That explanation is found in his 
complete deliverance from pride and 
his thoroughgoing commitment of 
himself to the Lord God as his 
vindicator and protector. Any other 
leader in his position would surely 
have faced them with a withering re- 
ply, but Moses turned the matter com- 
pletely over to God. We really need the 
information contained in v.3 in order 
to make sense of his amazing meekness 
in this situation. Therefore it seems 


rather unlikely that v.3 could have 
been a later interpolation, when it ac- 
tually furnishes a key to the under- 
standing of the whole episode that 
introduces it. 

Did the mission of the twelve spies start 
from Paran (Num. 13:3) or from Kadesh 
Barnea (Num. 20:1)? 

Both statements are true. The Wil- 
derness of Paran extends from the 
port of Eloth (Eilat) on the Gulf of 
Aqabah in a north-northeast direction 
across the Nahal Paran and Har Ra- 
mon (cf. Baly, Bible Geography, p. 34) 
to include the site of Kadesh Barnea, 
which lies on the same latitude as 
Punon (ibid., p. 95). The spies there- 
fore set out from Kadesh, which is lo- 
cated in the Wilderness of Paran (cf. 
Num. 13:26: “in the wilderness of Pa- 
ran, at Kadesh”). 

How could Moses be said to have given 
Hoshea the name Joshua in Numbers 
13:16 when he has already been referred 
to as “Joshua” in Exodus 17:9 and 24:13? 

There is no difficulty here, for the 
final composition of Exodus by Moses 
undoubtedly occurred toward the end 
of the forty years’ wandering. Even 
though Joshua may not have acquired 
the name from Moses until later in the 
journey from Egypt to Canaan, never- 
theless in retrospect it would have been 
only natural to refer to Joshua by the 
name he bore at the time Exodus was 
composed by Moses. It should be added 
that Y'h6su ,, ‘ (“Jehovah is salvation”) 
is virtually the same name as Hose a ‘ 
(“salvation”), both being derived from 
the root yasa‘. 

How could the Israelite spies describe 
Canaan as a land that devours its inhabi- 
tants (Num. 13:32) if indeed it was a 
fertile land of milk and honey (Num. 13)? 

It would be an obvious misinterpre- 
tation to take the expression in Num- 


137 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


bers 13:32, which describes Canaan as 
“a land that devours its inhabitants,” as 
implying that it was a poverty-stricken 
land that could not adequately support 
its population. In this context it can 
only mean that its lush fertility (enjoy- 
ing a higher rate of precipitation than 
it has had in recent centuries) ren- 
dered it so desirable to aggressively 
competing nations and tribes as to 
make it a center of bloody strife. As 
rival claimants battled one another for 
possession of this desirable terrain, 
they suffered many casualties through 
warfare. There is no contradiction 
here whatsoever. The description of 
Canaan as a land flowing with milk and 
honey occurs at least thirteen times in 
the Pentateuch, as well as in Joshua, 
Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. There is abso- 
lutely no basis for interpreting the 
metaphor of Numbers 13:32 as relat- 
ing to poverty or starvation. 

If nearly the whole adult generation of Is- 
rael died during the forty years’ wander- 
ing, why is not that whole region full of 
their graves (Num. 14:34-35)? 

Under the nomadic conditions of 
the wilderness journey, with a con- 
stant shifting from one site to another, 
there is no way that sturdy or well- 
constructed graves could have been 
made as the adult generation passed 
away. Shallow burials beneath the sur- 
face of the sand or gravel would have 
failed to preserve any of the skeletons 
for a very long period, even though 
they might have escaped disburbance 
by carrion-eating wild animals (which 
is doubtful). No excavations conducted 
anywhere in the world have ever 
exhumed identifiable burials of this 
type, and in the nature of the case it 
would be very surprising if they did. 
The failure to uncover shallow, unpro- 
tected burials of this sort therefore 
constitutes no evidence whatever 
against the historical accuracy of the 


account that all the adults involved in 
the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea passed 
away before the crossing of the Jordan 
under Joshua — except, of course, for 
Caleb and Joshua himself. 

Did the Israelites under Moses pass “be- 
yond” Edom (Num. 20:14-21; Deut. 2:8) 
or did they actually pass “through” it 
(Deut. 2:4-7)? 

Apparently both statements are 
true, as one would expect in view of 
the fact that both of these prepositions 
are used in one and the same passage. 
Deuteronomy 2:4 says, “And com- 
mand the people, saying, ‘You will pass 
through [or, ‘pass through in’; Heb. 
‘db e rim big e bul] the territory of your 
brothers the sons of Esau who live in 
Seir; and they will be afraid of you” 
(nasb). The next two verses go on to 
explain that God will not permit the 
Hebrews to conquer any of Edom’s 
territory since He originally bestowed 
it on Esau as a permanent possession. 
But they are to purchase food and 
water from the Edomites, along with 
the permission to march up through 
the international route known as the 
King’s Highway, which passed through 
the midst of the Edomite domain. 

The response of the king of Edom 
was in the negative, and he even drew 
up his troops to oppose their using the 
highway itself through his land. Num- 
bers 20:2 1 then states, “Thus Edom re- 
fused to allow Israel to pass through 
his territory; so Israel turned away 
from him” (nasb). Moses later recalls 
this, saying, “So we passed beyond our 
brothers the sons of Esau, who live in 
Seir, away from the Arabah road [i.e., 
the King’s Highway], away from Elath 
and from Ezion-geber” (Deut. 2:8, 
nasb). Therefore we are to understand 
that the northward line of march led 
along the eastern border of Edom to 
the border of Moab (a territory Israel 
was also forbidden by God to pass 


138 


NUMBERS 


through forcibly, since it had been 
granted to the posterity of Lot, Moab’s 
ancestor). 

In what sense, then, did Israel pass 
through in the territory of Edom (as 
Deut. 2:4 said they' would)? It was in 
the sense that they were inside the 
borders at the time they parleyed with 
the Edomite government. They may 
even have purchased some food and 
water from some of the local inhabi- 
tants before their government ruled 
against the Hebrews’ using the King’s 
Highway to go northward to Moab and 
the Plains of Shittim. They therefore 
did not force the issue — even though 
their army could have easily over- 
whelmed the Edomite armed forces. 
They refrained from passing up the 
highway and instead veered to the 
east and went up by the eastern border 
(in all probability), along the rugged, 
unpaved terrain of the Syrian desert. 

If Israel’s army was really so large, how 
could the Edomites have turned them 
back or the Canaanites have given them 
such difficulty in the conquest of the land 
(Num. 20:14-21; Josh. 7)? 

According to Numbers 26 the Israel- 
ite armed forces totaled 601,730, 
which certainly would have exceeded 
the number of troops that Edom could 
have marshaled to oppose them. But 
Numbers 20:14-21 says absolutely 
nothing about an armed clash between 
these forces; so it is evident that Moses 
and his host turned away from Edom 
simply because the Edomites refused 
to give them permission to march 
through their land on their way 
northward to Moab and the east bank 
of the Jordan. Verse 21 says, “Thus 
Edom refused to allow Israel to pass 
through his territory; so Israel turned 
away from him” (nasb). The Hebrews 
evidently respected the right of the 
Edomites (who were distantly related 
to them through Abraham) to refuse 
them passage if they so insisted. 


As for the conquest of Canaan, the 
only setback Israel experienced was 
when the defenders of Ai repulsed an 
Israelite expeditionary force of no 
more than 3000 (Josh. 7:4). They had 
36 casualties — hardly a major military 
defeat! Every other armed conflict was 
attended by complete success. No 
country was ever more easily con- 
quered than Canaan, so far as Joshua’s 
troops were concerned. As for the 
ability of the land to support such large 
numbers of inhabitants as are indi- 
cated by the record in Joshua, it should 
be remembered that modern condi- 
tions are no reliable yardstick of popu- 
lation potential of ancient lands. In our 
own century large and beautiful 
Roman cities have been discovered 
under the sands of North Africa in 
areas that are now totally deserted, 
owing to a lowering of the precipita- 
tion rate. The soil of Israel today is 
remarkably fertile in most of its valleys, 
slopes, and plains, once it has adequate 
irrigation. Baly (Bible Geography, p. 67) 
reports Alan Crown’s research as in- 
dicating that drought conditions re- 
curred in Palestine between 2300 and 
2000 b.c., but that there was “perhaps 
somewhat more assured rainfall than 
now just after 2000.” Baly (p. 68) con- 
cludes his climatic study with these 
words: 

Unfortunately, after 2000 b.c. the evi- 
dences for climatic fluctuation are in- 
creasingly obscured by human activity in 
the country, but we must certainly be- 
ware, and beware emphatically, of as- 
suming that the climate figures given in 
this book [for the last century or so] can 
be used unchanged for the patriarchal 
period, the time of the monarchy, the 
New Testament, or any subsequent era. 
That would mean that the Palestinian 
climate had remained static for 4000 
years, and this we can say with confi- 
dence is impossible. 

The likelihood of a higher rainfall 
during the second millennium b.c. in 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


the area of Syria-Palestine makes it 
quite feasible for that territory to have 
supported a large population, capable 
of fielding large armies and of sup- 
porting the Hebrew population there 
after the conquest. The present popu- 
lation of Israel is considerably in excess 
of the figures given for biblical times; 
so there should be little credence given 
to skepticism along these lines. Fur- 
thermore, the recent discoveries at the 
Syrian city of Ebla at the conclusion of 
the third millennium indicate quite 
conclusively that the population of that 
one city was at least 260,000 (cf. K.A. 
Kitchen, the Bible in Its World [Down- 
ers Grove, 111.: Intervarsity, 1977], 
pp. 39^10). 

We read in Numbers 22:17-23 that the 
prophet Balaam informed the messengers 
of King Balak of Moab that he could never 
do (or say) anything contrary to the com- 
mand of Yahweh his God; but why then 
did the Lord send His angel to kill him 
(Num. 22:33)? (D*) 

God sent His angel with a very stern 
warning to Balaam not to speak what 
Balak wanted him to say (namely, a 
curse against the host of Israel) but 
only the true message of God, a pro- 
nouncement of blessing on the cove- 
nant nation of Jacob. The encounter 
with the self-seeking prophet at the 
narrow mountain road was intended as 
a frightening reminder that Balaam 
was never to speak any other message 
than that which Yahweh was about to 
reveal to him in the presence of the 
Moabites and the Midianites. Because 
of his corrupt motive in going to Balak 
afterward, despite his earlier refusal to 
come to Balak at all (Num. 22:13), 
Balaam was guilty of yearning to com- 
ply with the king’s request rather than 
God’s desire, just for the sake of the 
earthly riches and honor the wicked 
monarch had promised him as a bribe 
to disobey God. 


To be sure, the Lord had finally 
given Balaam grudging permission to 
go down to Moab, on the condition 
that he would faithfully repeat the true 
message of God in the presence of 
Balak and the Moabites (v.20>. But be- 
cause of the fierce struggle between 
duty and greed that went on in 
Balaam’s soul as he responded to the 
king’s invitation, Yahweh had to re- 
mind him very sternly that his failure 
to carry out his commission from God 
with complete faithfulness would re- 
sult in his instant death. Hence the 
dramatic scene at the mountain pass 
occurred, where God used the donkey 
as His mouthpiece to rebuke the stub- 
born prophet and warn him of his 
mortal danger. 

Is not the mention of Agag in Numbers 
24:7 anachronistic, in view of his contem- 
poraneity with King Saul in the eleventh 
century (1 Sam. 15:8)? 

It is rather questionable whether 
“Agag” was a personal name at all; it 
may well have been a royal title among 
the Amalekites, somewhat similar to 
“Pharaoh” among the Egyptians or 
“Caesar” among the Romans (al- 
though, of course, the latter was origi- 
nally the proper name of Gaius Julius 
Caesar). It has been found as a name 
(or title?) in Phoenician inscriptions 
(cf. Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum I. 
3196) in a location and time far re- 
moved from the southern desert 
Midianites who were wiped out by 
Saul’s army. But even if it was a royal 
name that appeared in the royal family 
of that branch of the Midianite nation, 
this is no more remarkable than the 
recurrence of Jeroboam as the name of 
a king of Israel who reigned from 793 
to 753 rather than the original 
Jeroboam who began the northern 
kingdom back in 931. There is a simi- 
lar recurrence of royal names in 
Phoenicia (with two or more kings 
named “Hiram” or “Ahiram”), in Syria 


140 


NUMBERS 


(with at least two Benhadads), in Gerar 
of Philistia (with at least two 
Abimelechs), and in Egypt (where 
there were three Pharaohs named Sen- 
wosret and four named Amenem- 
het in the Twelfth Dynasty alone, 
and in the Eighteenth there were four 
named Thutmose and four named 
Amenhotep). Although no written 
records have survived from the Midia- 
nite culture, we may safely assume that 
they too followed the custom of using 
a favored name repeatedly in succes- 
sive generations. 

How many died in the plague of the apos- 
tasy of Baal-peor? 

Numbers 25:9 indicates that as a di- 
vine judgment on the Baal worshipers 
of Baal-peor, no less than twenty-four 
thousand died of plague. Some have 
supposed that 1 Corinthians 10:8 re- 
fers to the same episode, which gives 
the number of the dead as only 
twenty-three thousand. But this is an 
unfounded objection, for 1 Corin- 
thians 10:8 does not refer to the inci- 
dent at Baal-peor (Num. 25: 1 -8) at all; 
rather, it refers to the plague that fol- 
lowed the apostasy of the golden calf. 
This is clear from the previous verse 
(v.7): “And do not be idolaters, as some 
of them were; as it is written: ’The 
people sat down to eat and drink, and 
stood up to play’” (nasb). Since this is a 
direct quotation from Exodus 32:6, the 
identification is beyond dispute. 

Interestingly enough, Exodus 32:3 
does not give the number of those that 
perished in that plague of the golden 
calf; it simply says, “Then the Lord 
smote the people, because of what they 
did with the calf which Aaron had 
made” (nasb). Not until this New Tes- 
tament passage (1 Cor. 10:8) do we 
find out how many died in that plague, 
namely twenty-three thousand. There 
is no contradiction at all, just two dif- 
ferent episodes! 


Is there any record of the tribe of Dan to 
show where they eventually settled? (D*) 

At the time of the second census, as 
recorded in Numbers 26:42, the mili- 
tary population of the tribe of Dan 
came to the very considerable figure of 
64,400 (v.43). To these was allotted a 
rather restricted territory between the 
western border of Judah and the shore 
of the Mediterranean, including the 
northern part of Philistia (Josh. 19: 
40-46). This particular region, how- 
ever, was very fertile and enjoyed 
good precipitation and might well have 
yielded enough crops to support this 
populous tribe. But for some reason 
the Danites failed to match the Philis- 
tines in determination and military 
prowess; and despite the heroism of 
Samson, their finest warrior, they be- 
came vassals to them in a few genera- 
tions after Joshua’s conquest. 

Partly for this reason, the Danites 
became so restricted in their economic 
and political growth that some of the 
more enterprising of the younger men 
decided to form an expeditionary 
force and seek new land to settle out- 
side the territory originally occupied 
by the Twelve Tribes. We cannot 
exactly date the time of this migration, 
which is detailed for us in Judges 18; 
but we know that only 600 men were 
involved in this operation. 

After the Danite search committee 
had surveyed the entire land all the 
way up to southern Phoenicia (modern 
Lebanon), they chose the prosperous 
and peaceful city of Laish as the most 
attractive prospect for settlement. The 
armed troops thereupon proceeded 
through Kiriath-Jearim in Judah and 
went to the hill country of Ephraim, 
where they abducted a Levite who was 
serving as household priest to Micah, 
an Ephraimite. They also made off with 
Micah’s silver ephod, to serve as their 
cult image in the worship of Yahweh 
(though this was contrary to the second 
commandment), and attacked the un- 


141 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


suspecting Laishites in a surprise as- 
sault. Having taken possession of the 
city, they renamed it Dan. This Dan 
became the northernmost outpost of 
the Twelve Tribes, and as such was 
featured in the common phrase “from 
Dan to Beersheba.” 

After the secession of the Ten 
Tribes from the dynasty of David (931 
B.c.), the founding king of the north- 
ern kingdom, Jeroboam I, took care to 
establish an official temple there, com- 
plete with the image of a golden calf 
(1 Kings 12:30). But this northern col- 
ony of the tribe of Dan probably re- 
mained much smaller in population 
than that of those living next to Phil- 
istia, in the territory originally allotted 
to them by Joshua. There was no ques- 
tion of a migration on the part of the 
whole tribe; it was a modest-sized col- 
ony that underjtook the conquest of 
Laish up near the territory of Sidon 
and Tyre. 

How can the total destruction of Midian in 
Numbers 31 be morally justified? 

Numbers 31 narrates the total de- 
struction of the Midianites who had 
conspired to seduce the Israelites to 
fornication and idolatry at the incident 
of Baal-peor (Num. 25:1-9). The re- 
sultant plague against the Israelites on 
that occasion mounted to a total of 
twenty-four thousand and a serious 
alienation with God. The heinousness 
of their crime against the Lord’s 
people and the threat of future al- 
lurement to apostasy made the Midian- 
ites ripe for judgment. Chapter 31 tells 
us very plainly that it was the Lord 
Yahweh Himself who commanded this 
punitive action; it did not originate 
with Moses or his men. They were 
commanded to “execute the Lord’s 
vengeance on Midian” (v.3, nasb) by 
sending against them an army of 
twelve thousand warriors, one thou- 
sand from each tribe, under the 


leadership of Phinehas, the grandson 
of Aaron (v.6). 

The attack was so successful that 
without a single casualty (v.49) the Is- 
raelites defeated and killed all five 
kings of the Midianites and all their 
men as well. Balaam, the unfaithful 
prophet of God from Beor, had been 
the instigator of the apostasy of Baal- 
peor; so he also was killed. The mar- 
ried women and all the younger 
women who had been sexually active 
were likewise put to death (vv. 15-18), 
after Moses had given special orders to 
do so. Only the young girls and virgins 
had their lives spared, and they were 
taken as servants into the Israelite 
households. A stated percentage of the 
Midianite livestock was devoted to the 
Lord and the service of the tabernacle. 
Of the gold ornaments taken from the 
enemy, 16,750 shekels were also given 
to the Lord’s service. Thus the entire 
affair was concluded and the baneful 
effects of fraternization with degener- 
ate pagans became a thing of the 
past — all but the unhappy memory 
and the solemn warning against yield- 
ing to the seduction of Canaanite 
idolatry. 

Was this action morally justified? 
Those who wish to argue that it was 
cruel and uncalled for will have to 
argue with God, for He commanded it. 
But it seems quite apparent in the light 
of all the circumstances and the back- 
ground of this crisis that the integrity 
of the entire nation was at stake. Had 
the threat to Israel’s existence as a cov- 
enant nation been dealt with any less 
severely, it is extremely doubtful that 
Israel would have been able to conquer 
Ganaan at all, or claim the Land of 
Promise as a sacred trust from God. 
The massacre was as regrettable as a 
radical surgery performed on the ail- 
ing body of a cancer victim. If his life is 
to be preserved, the diseased portion 
must be completely cut away. (Further 
discussion concerning this whole prob- 


142 


NUMBERS 


lem of extermination will be found in 
connnection with Joshua 6:21 — “Was 
Joshua justified in exterminating the 
population of Jericho?”) 

Does Numbers 35:30 make it wrong to 
condemn a murderer to death on mere 
circumstantial evidence? 

Numbers 35:30 says, “If anyone kills 
a person, the murderer shall be put to 
death at the evidence of witnesses, but 
no person shall be put to death on the 
testimony of one witness” (nasb). Simi- 
larly we read in Deuteronomy 17:6: 
“On the evidence of two witnesses or 
three witnesses, he who is to die shall 
be put to death; he shall not be put to 
death on the evidence of one witness” 
(nasb). 

If the term “witness” ('ed) means 
only an eyewitness of the crime while it 
was actually being committed, this 
would seem to restrict the imposition 
of the death penalty to those compara- 
tively rare instances where the mur- 
derer committed homicide in full view 
of the public. This might mean that 
less than 10 percent of the cases of 
the violations of the sixth command- 
ment could lawfully be brought to trial 
and result in the achievement of jus- 
tice. Yet the real thrust of the laws 
against first-degree murder was that 
the murderer should surely be 
brought to trial and executed. Nothing 
less than “life for life” was allowed 
under the Torah (cf. Exod. 21:23; 
Deut. 19:21). 

Although some other legal systems 
(such as the Hittite Code) allowed for 
the payment of blood-money as an al- 
ternative to the death penalty, this was 
expressly forbidden by the law of God. 
Numbers 35:31 states: “Moreover, you 
shall not take ransom for the life of a 
murderer who is guilty of death, but 
he shall surely be put to death” (nasb). 
Verse 33 goes on to say, “So you shall 
not pollute the land in which you are; 


for blood pollutes the land and no ex- 
piation can be made for the land for 
the blood that is shed on it, except by 
the blood of him who shed it” (nasb). 

The seriousness of an unsolved 
murder for the welfare of the district 
in which it occurred was such that 
Deuteronomy 21 required a solemn 
inquest to be held when it could not 
immediately be discovered who was 
guilty of the crime. Verses 3-8 
specify: 

And it shall be that the city which is 
nearest to the slain man, that is, the el- 
ders of that city, shall take a heifer of the 
herd, . . . and the elders of that city shall 
bring that heifer down to a valley with 
running water, . . . and shall break the 
heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then 
the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come 
near. . . . And all the elders of that city 
which is nearest to the slain man shall 
wash their hands over the heifer whose 
neck was broken in the valley; and they 
shall answer and say, "Our hands have 
not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see 
it. Forgive Thy people Israel whom 
Thou hast redeemed, O Lord, and do 
not place the guilt of innocent blood in 
the midst of Thy people Israel.” And the 
bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them. 

This passage makes it clear that mur- 
der was a very heinous offense in the 
eyes of God, rather than a crime to be 
so lightly regarded as to be punishable 
perhaps one time out of ten (on the 
technicality that two men had not actu- 
ally seen the killer strike the blow). 

There is a far wider implication that 
results from this restrictive interpreta- 
tion: the two- witnesses requirement 
applies not only to homicide cases but 
to any other crime for which a suspect 
could be brought to trial. Deuter- 
onomy 19:15 says, “A single witness 
shall not rise up against a man on 
account of any iniquity or any sin 
which he has committed; on the evi- 
dence of two or three witnesses a mat- 
ter shall be confimed” (nasb). This 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


two-witnesses rule therefore applies to 
theft, fraud, adultery (which is seldom 
performed in public view), embezzle- 
ment, or any other offense for which a 
man might be subject to criminal proc- 
ess. Every criminal guilty of any of 
these offenses would therefore get off 
scot-free if he had taken the prudent 
measure of committing his crime 
where two people did not happen to be 
watching him. It is safe to say that 
neither ancient Israel nor any other 
system of jurisprudence known to man 
could effectively function under such a 
restriction as that. 

How then are we to understand this 
requirement for two or more witnesses 
in the prosecution of an accused sus- 
pect? The answer is found in a study of 
the actual usage of the term ‘ed (“wit- 
ness”) as employed in the Hebrew 
Scriptures. In Leviticus 5: 1 we read, 
“Now if a person sins, after he hears a 
public adjuration to testify, when he is 
a witness, whether he has seen or oth- 
erwise known, if he does not tell it, 
then he will bear his guilt” (nasb). This 
verse clearly establishes that there are 
two kinds of witnesses who may offer 
testimony in a criminal process: those 
who have seen the crime actually being 
committed, and those who, though not 
eyewitnesses, have seen some evidence 
relative to the identity of the offender. 
One who has found a written death- 
threat, for example, or who has heard 
the accused express a desire or inten- 
tion to kill, rob, or rape the victim, 
would be acceptable as a witness within 
this definition of 'ed (one who has per- 
tinent knowledge concerning the crime, 
even though he has not actually seen 
it being committed). 

A slightly different use of ‘ed is 
found in the law of responsibility for a 
missing animal that has been entrusted 
to the care of another, as in Exodus 
22: 13: “If it is all torn to pieces [i.e., by 
some predatory beast], let him bring it 
as evidence ['ed\, he shall not make res- 
titution for what has been torn to 


pieces” (nasb). Here then the lacerated 
corpse of the sheep or donkey, or 
whatever it may have been, will serve 
as a “witness” to the fact that the ani- 
mal was killed without any fault on the 
part of the caretaker. Yet that corpse 
could hardly be described as an eye - 
witness! Similarly, also, documents or 
memorial stones may serve as a witness 
fed) — such as the gal-'ed that Jacob 
and Laban erected at the spot where 
Laban had overtaken his fleeing son- 
in-law, and they had finally come to a 
covenant agreement toward each other 
(Gen. 31:46-49). Both gal-'ed (which 
gave rise to the name of “Gilead” for 
the whole region) and Laban’s 
Aramaic equivalent, y e gar sdh a duta\ 
signified “stone-pile of witness.” Yet in 
these lifeless stones we can hardly find 
a visual observer. 

Along the same line are references 
to written documents, which serve as a 
“witness” {‘ed, or its feminine form, 
‘edah) to the contract or covenant into 
which the contractual parties have en- 
tered. Thus Joshua 24:25-26 quotes 
Joshua himself as referring to the 
stone (or stela) that he had erected at 
Shechem, on which the words of their 
covenant commitment to Yahweh had 
been inscribed; he says of it in v.27: 
“Behold, this stone shall be for a wit- 
ness against us, for it has heard all the 
words of the Lord which he spoke to 
us; thus it shall be for a witness against 
you, lest you deny your God” (nasb). 
The inscribed stela was certainly not an 
eyewitness (even though it is poetically 
represented as an auditor to the cere- 
mony), but rather it served as a docu- 
ment in evidence. 

We conclude, therefore, that con- 
crete objects and written documents 
may be entered into evidence before a 
court hearing as valid testimony in any 
kind of a criminal process, whether or 
not a capital offense is involved. This 
falls more or less in line with the dif- 
ferent types of evidence received in 
criminal cases even in our modern 


144 


NUMBERS 


courts, and so there is no contraven- 
tion of biblical principles in allowing 
such testimony, even though only one 
actual eyewitness may be found, or 
none at all. Each witness called to the 
stand is asked to testify only of matters 


within his personal observation and 
experience, and this satisfies the speci- 
fications of an ‘ed in a perfectly 
adequate fashion according to actual 
biblical usage. (For further discussion, 
see article on John 8:11.) 


145 


Deuteronomy 


How could the exact words of God in 
the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:2-17) 
be altered in any way by Moses in 
Deuteronomy 5:6-21? 

It should be understood that the 
purpose of Deuteronomy was to fur- 
nish a selective paraphrase of the law 
of God revealed to Moses in the earlier 
three books: Exodus, Leviticus, and 
Numbers. It was not intended to be a 
word-for-word repetition of the text of 
those books but rather a homiletical, 
hortatory application of their teaching 
to the new generation that had 
reached their majority during the forty 
years of the wilderness wandering. 
Those precepts and aspects of the law 
that would be most useful for the 
non-Levitical congregation were culled 
out and set before them in a hard- 
hitting yet encouraging fashion so that 
they would be ideologically prepared 
for the conquest and occupation of 
Canaan. Consequently it would be 
quite exceptional for the identical 
words to occur on a given subject, as 
between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 
5. There are variations in phraseology, 
but never in sense or essential teach- 
ing, as between those two books (or be- 
tween Deuteronomy and Leviticus or 
Numbers, for that matter). 

In the case of the Decalogue, it was 
only to be expected that the wording of 
Exodus 20 should be very closely fol- 
lowed by Deuteronomy 5, since this 


was originally a text directly composed 
by God Himself. However, it should be 
remembered that Moses was free to 
follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit 
as he omitted or inserted a clause or 
two in the Deuteronomic restatement. 
While it is true that Moses quoted the 
Decalogue as being the very words of 
God (“He said” [Deut. 5:5]), this com- 
mitted him only to insertions that 
quoted from God’s own revealed word, 
whether in Exodus 20 or elsewhere in 
the book. Thus, in connection with the 
Sabbath commandment (v. 14), he 
omits mention of the Creation in six 
days as a basis for the sanction (con- 
tained in Exod. 20: 1 1), but adds at the 
end of this commandment (Deut. 5:15) 
the words of Exodus 13:3: “Remember 
this day in which you went out from 
Egypt, from the house of slavery: for 
by a powerful hand the lord brought 
you out from this place.” Those words 
also had been spoken by divine inspira- 
tion and authority, and they furnished 
Moses’ people with an additional 
ground for showing kindness and con- 
sideration for the servile class in their 
society. The Lord had shown them 
great love and kindness when they had 
been a nation of slaves down in Egypt. 
It may not be quite clear as to the rea- 
son for omitting the Creation days 
basis for the Sabbath sanction; but the 
failure to include it constitutes no ac- 
tual discrepancy — any more than per- 
tains to quotations we may discuss, 


146 


DEUTERONOMY 


taken from the text appearing in some 
other book, but streamlined by the use 
of a succession of dots when we are 
leaving out a few of the words in the 
original passage. 

As for the variation in word order 
occurring in the tenth commandment 
(“house” is mentioned before “wife” in 
Exod. 20: 17, but “wife” before “house” 
in Deut. 5:21), the words and the 
meaning are both the same, despite the 
slight difference in sequence. There is 
also a different Hebrew word for 
“covet” used before “house” in 
Deuteronomy 5:21 (tit’awweh instead 
of tahmod), but the meaning is virtually 
identical as between the two verbs; and 
the variation may simply have fur- 
nished a variant for the sake of a more 
agreeable style than that employed by 
Exodus 20:17 (/o’ tahmod). That would 
certainly conform to the specifically 
homiletical purpose underlying the 
last book of the Pentateuch. 

Just where did Aaron die? Deuter- 
onomy 10:6 says that it was at Moserah, 
but Numbers 20:28; 33:38 say it was at 
the top of Mount Hor. 

Deuteronomy 10:6 contains a par- 
enthetical statement in the midst of 
Moses’ reminiscences about events 
near Mount Sinai, which goes as fol- 
lows: “Now the sons of Israel set out 
from Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Mo- 
serah. There Aaron died and there 
he was buried and Eleazar his son 
ministered as priest in his place” 
(nasb). But Numbers 20:28 relates 
how Moses and Eleazar accompanied 
Aaron to the summit of Mount Hor, 
where he passed away. This is con- 
firmed by Numbers 33:38: “Then 
Aaron the priest went up to Mount 
Hor at the command of the lord, and 
died there, in the fortieth year after 
the sons of Israel had come from the 
land of Egypt” (nasb). 

In all probability Moserah was the 


name of the district in which Mount 
Hor was located (so P.A. Verhoef in 
Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclope- 
dia, 4:279), just as Horeb was the name 
of the mountain complex in which the 
mountain known as Sinai was situated. 
There has been no archaeological in- 
vestigation in the vincinity of Jebel 
Madurah that might give us additional 
information concerning the limits of 
the Moserah district; but it is fair to 
assume that the one ancient source 
that does mention it (namely, the Pen- 
tateuch) was well aware of its location, 
and that it placed it in the vicinity of 
Mount Hor. 

Mount Nebo was alleged by Jo- 
sephus ( Antiquities 4.4.7) to be the 
same as Jebel Neby Harun, a mountain 
forty-eight hundred feet high, over- 
looking Petra. But since it was located 
in the middle of Edom rather than at 
its border, and since it is somewhat too 
rugged to ascend without special equip- 
ment, and too lofty for its summit to be 
easily observed from below, it is rather 
unlikely that this traditional identifica- 
tion is the correct one. 

Stephen Barabas (in Tenney, Zon- 
dervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 3:201) 
suggests Jebel Madurah as a more 
likely site for Aaron’s death, for it lies 
northeast of Kadesh on the northwest 
border of Edom; and its summit can be 
observed by watchers standing at its 
base, as Numbers 20:27 specifies. But 
whether or not this is the correct iden- 
tification, it is quite unwarrantable to 
assume that the Pentateuch erred in 
placing Hor in the district of Moserah. 

What is the Old Testament teaching on 
the use of intoxicating liquor? Deu- 
teronomy 14:26 seems to permit the 
purchase and use of wine and strong 
drink; libations of wine were even poured 
on the altar (Exod. 29:40). Yet Leviticus 
10:8-9 contains a stern warning against 
wine so far as priests were concerned; and 
Proverbs seems to reject the use of wine 


147 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


on the part of all believers (Prov. 20:1; 
23:29-35), except perhaps for those who 
are sickly and near death (31:4-7). (D*) 

The Old Testament abounds with 
warning examples of the misuse of 
wine and the very grave dangers it 
holds in store for those who drink it. 
When Noah first discovered the intox- 
icating effects of grape juice (Gen. 
9:20-21), he made a fool of himself 
and met with derision on the part of 
his son Ham. The daughters of Lot 
plied him with wine until he became so 
befuddled that he committed incest 
with them unawares during nighttime. 
Immoderate use of wine became a na- 
tional evil in the northern kingdom 
and led to its moral depravity and loss 
of spiritual understanding. Isaiah 
graphically described the revolting 
excesses and degrading addiction 
of those who drank to excess (Isa. 
28:1-8). Proverbs 20 and 23 describe 
most vividly the depraving bestiality 
and folly of those who give themselves 
over to liquor for the purpose of intoxi- 
cation. In a figurative sense also, Psalms 
60:3; 75:8; Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25: 
15-18 speak of wine as a bitter and 
terrible potion for experiencing the 
wrath of God, visiting judgment on the 
wicked and ungodly. Quite in the spirit 
of these Old Testament passages, we 
read in Revelation 14:10, “He also [i.e., 
the worshiper of the beast] will drink 
of the wine of the wrath of God, which 
is unmixed in the cup of His anger; 
and he will be tormented with fire and 
brimstone” (nasb mg.). 

As pointed out in the question, ac- 
cording to Leviticus 10:8-1 1, no priest 
was allowed to enter into the taberna- 
cle or temple to perform divine service 
if he had partaken of wine. (It was 
probably because Aaron’s two older 
sons, Nadab and Abihu, had been 
drinking that they brought unhal- 
lowed fire to light the incense of the 
golden altar and therefore lost their 
lives.) It is thus made clear that priests 


who drank were thereby prevented 
from carrying out their ministry of 
teaching the people the distinction 
between what was holy and what was 
profane. 

This has implications for the New 
Testament priesthood of all believers 
(1 Peter 2:9) and suggests that they 
may be seriously handicapped in carry- 
ing on the work of soulwinning if they 
personally indulge in the use of al- 
cohol. By doing so, they may cause 
millions of fellow citizens to stumble 
who have become enslaved to this de- 
grading practice and are looking for 
some way out of their bondage. These 
are scarcely apt to take seriously the 
Christian witness of one who has not rid 
himself of “everything that hinders” 
(Heb. 12:1), especially when he starts 
speaking about the victorious life of 
faith. 

It is clear that in the days of Christ 
and the apostles, wine was served as a 
table beverage at meals and used in 
communion services. At that time dis- 
tilled liquor was as yet unknown, and 
there was no organized liquor indus- 
try dedicated to making every man, 
woman, and child addicted to their 
profit-making vice (as is true today), 
with attendant increase in crime and 
highway fatalities resulting from drunk- 
en driving. It is also very clear that 
the New Testament itself lays down 
a principle that makes it very diffi- 
cult for a conscientious believer to 
carry on the use of liquor even on a 
temperate scale. That principle is 
found in Romans 14:21: “It is good 
neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, 
nor any thing where by thy brother 
stumbleth, or is offended, or is made 
weak.” Verse 22 goes on to say, “Hast 
thou faith? have it to thyself before 
God. Happy is he that condemneth 
not himself in the thing which he 
alloweth.” 

In other words, the basic issue at 
stake is the law of love toward the 
weaker brother, and whether we as 


148 


DEUTERONOMY 


ambassadors of Christ are so con- 
cerned about souls that we are willing 
to forgo personal “rights” in order to 
win alcoholics and near-alcoholics to 
Christ. If we really care about the souls 
of men, and if we are really in business 
for Christ rather than for ourselves, 
then there seems (to this writer, at 
least) to be no alternative to total 
abstinence — not as a matter of le- 
galism, but rather as a matter of love. 

Are there not a number of contradic- 
tions between the laws of Deuteronomy 
and the earlier legal material found in 
Exodus? Compare Exodus 21:26 with 
Deuteronomy 15:12-18 and Exodus 23: 
10-11 with Deuteronomy 15:1-11. 

The two sets of passages contain no 
contradiction whatever, so far as this 
writer can see (on the basis of his own 
legal training). In Exodus 2 1 :26 it is laid 
down as a ruling that any slaveowner 
who strikes a male or female servant in 
such a way as to blind an eye must free 
that slave by way of compensation. In 
Deuteronomy 15:12-18 it is provided 
that after six years of service a Hebrew 
slave must be set free, and in addition 
he must be well provided with enough 
equipment to become self-supporting. 
These are two different grounds for 
manumission, but they do not in the 
slightest contradict each other. 

Exodus 23:10-11 relates to the re- 
quirement that, after six continuous 
years of cultivation, plowed acreage is 
to be left fallow during the seventh or 
sabbatical year, and that which grows 
on it without cultivation is to be left to 
the poor or else to wild animals. 
Deuteronomy 15:1-11 has nothing to 
do with the cultivation of land but re- 
lates to the remission of debts (•Fmittah) 
at the end of seven years. It also con- 
tains a promise that there will be no 
poor in the land of Israel after the 
conquest and settlement by the He- 
brews — provided only they will keep 
the Lord’s commandments (both con- 


cerning the sabbatical year and con- 
cerning the other main guidelines for 
stewardship of the land as provided 
in the Mosaic Law). There is there- 
fore no contradiction at all between 
these provisions. 

For readers who may be interested 
in this general subject of allegedly con- 
flicting laws in the Mosaic Code, we 
recommend the work of the British 
legal expert Harold M. Wiener, who in 
his “Essays on Pentateuchal Criticism” 
(1909) and “Pentateuchal Studies” 
(1912) (cited in R.K. Harrison Old Tes- 
tament Introduction, p. 30) showed that 
there was no proven case of conflict 
between any of the pairs of laws that 
had been cited by Documentarian crit- 
ics as proof of multiple authorship of 
the Torah. It is instructive to note that 
if a similar methodology were applied 
to the Code of Hammurabi (inscribed 
on a single diorite stela in Babylon ca. 
1750 b.c.), a similar claim might be ad- 
vanced. Kitchen ( Ancient Orient, 
p. 134) remarks: 

Thus, it is easy to group social laws 
and cult-regulations into small collec- 
tions on the basis of their content or 
form and postulate their gradual accre- 
tion in the present books [i.e., of the Pen- 
tateuch], with the practical elimination 
of Moses. One may do this equally to the 
Hammurapi laws (on content), and pos- 
tulate there a hypothetical process of 
accretion of laws into groups of themes 
prior to conflation in Hammurapi’s so- 
called “code.” But this does not eliminate 
Hammurapi from “authorship” of his 
“code.” His laws are known from a 
monument of his own time in his own 
name; therefore, any accretions of laws 
in his collection occurred before his 
work Furthermore, there are appar- 

ent contradictions or discrepancies in the 
Hammurapi “code” that are “no less glar- 
ing than those which serve as the basis of 
analyzing strata in the Bible” (M. Green- 
berg, Yehezkel Kaufmann Jubilee Volume, 
1960, p. 6). These obviously have no 
bearing on the historical fact of Ham- 
murapi [sic] having incorporated them 
in his collection. 


149 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


(See also Kitchen, Ancient Orient, p. 148.) 

How can Deuteronomy 15:4 — “There 
shall be no poor among you” — be recon- 
ciled with Deuteronomy 15:11 — “For the 
poor will never cease to be in the land”? 

Taken out of context, the promise 
“There shall be no poor among you” is 
indeed contradicted by vv. 11-12 and 
by the subsequent experience of Israel. 
With Deuteronomy 15:11 in mind 
(“The poor will never cease to be in the 
land,” nasb), our Lord Jesus Christ 
affirmed, in connection with the gen- 
erosity of Mary in anointing His feet 
with costly perfume, “For the poor 
you have with you always; but you do 
not always have Me” (Matt. 26:11, 
nasb). But as we take the passage in 
context, it turns out to be a merely 
theoretical possibility conditioned on 
full and consistent obedience to God’s 
law. 

The kjv translates vv. 4-5 thus: 
“Save when there shall be no poor 
among you; for the Lord shall greatly 
bless thee in the land which the Lord 
thy God giveth thee. . . . only if thou 
carefully hearken unto the voice of 
the Lord thy God, to observe to do 
all these commandments.” The asv 
amends this slightly to read: “Howbeit 
there shall be no poor with thee; (for 
Jehovah will surely bless thee in the 
land). ... if only thou diligently hear- 
ken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God, 
to observe to do all this command- 
ment.” The kjv’s “Save when” and the 
asv’s “Howbeit” are different ways of 
handling the Hebrew ’epes ki, with 
which v.4 begins. The lexicons tend to 
favor “howbeit” or “notwithstanding” 
(Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon, p. 78); 
Brown-Driver-Briggs ( Lexicon , p. 87) 
defines this phrase as save that how- 
beit (qualifying a preceding state- 
ment).” Gesenius-Buhl (Hebraisches 
und aramaisches Handworterbuch, p. 60) 
give “ nur , dass, aber, jedoch" (i.e., “only 


that,” “but,” “nevertheless”); Zorell 
(F. Zorell and L. Semkowski, edd., Lex- 
icon Hebraicum etAramaicum Veteris Testa- 
menti [Rome, 1940], ad loc.) gives 
“tantum (est adnotandum) quod, = 
ceterum, utique, sed” (which means 
“yet [it is to be noted] that; = more- 
over, in any case, but”). Perhaps the 
best choice among these near-synonyms 
is “However,” which is the equivalent 
appearing both in the nasb and the 
niv, both of which begin v.5 with “if 
only you listen obediently.” 

The foregoing analysis makes it 
quite clear that the Lord is not predict- 
ing that there will be no poor among 
Israel, regardless of how the Israelites 
may break their promises of obedience 
to His laws and the obligations of 
brotherly kindness under their cove- 
nant with Yahweh. What v.4 is saying is 
that perfect and consistent obedience 
to the holy standards laid down by God 
will make possible a society free from 
poverty. Verse 5 is quite emphatic in 
the expression of the condition of total 
and sincere obedience that must be 
met. It begins with raq ’im, “only if.” 
The particle raq means “only,” “al- 
together,” “surely.” At the beginning 
of a sentence (observes Brown- 
Driver-Briggs, Lexicon, p. 956b), it 
adds a limitation on something pre- 
viously expressed. In this particular 
passage it means “provided only.” 

In v.ll we find a true prediction: 
“For the poor will never cease to be in 
the land; therefore . . . you shall freely 
open your hand to your brother, to 
your needy and poor in your land” 
(nasb). In other words, there is no real 
expectation that the Israelites will long 
or consistently maintain biblical stan- 
dards of holiness, fairness, considera- 
tion, and love among themselves; and 
the poverty-free state envisioned in v.4 
is merely a theoretical possibility. 

Is Deuteronomy 22:5 — “The woman shall 
not wear that which pertaineth unto a 


150 


DEUTERONOMY 


man, neither shall a man put on a wo- 
man’s garment” — applicable today? (D*) 

The word k'li (translated “what per- 
tains to”) is a rather imprecise word. 
Sometimes it means “vessel” or “con- 
tainer”; sometimes "implement,” 
"equipment”; sometimes “weapon” or 
even "adornment.” It is apparently 
only in this context that it refers to 
clothing (k'li is any kind of manufac- 
tured product); although conceivably it 
might refer to adornments or jewelry. 
The word for garment in the second 
part of the verse is simlah, which 
primarily means mantle or cloak, but 
then becomes more loosely applied to 
clothing of almost any kind that covers 
the body. 

The basic principle here is that each 
of the two sexes is to appreciate and 
honor the dignity of its own sex rather 
than to adopt the appearance or role 
of the opposite sex. If a man is thank- 
ful to God that he was created a male 
and the woman that she was a female, 
then they should be happy to dress the 
part of a man or a woman, as the case 
may be, rather than imitating the cos- 
tume of another. 

Deuteronomy 22:5 completely ex- 
cludes transvestism or any kind of 
impersonation of the opposite sex. 
Probably the practice of sex perversion 
and homosexuality, particularly in 
connection with pagan worship of 
fertility gods, accentuated the need of 
such a provision. Whether it implies 
God’s disapproval of men’s styles that 
resemble a woman’s style of clothing 
(e.g., the Scottish kilt) or of women’s 
clothing that resembles the costume of 
a man is another question. It is proba- 
bly safe to say, for example, that most 
men would be quite reluctant to put on 
a pair of woman’s slacks, even though 
they do superficially resemble men’s 
trousers. Their style and cut are sig- 
nificantly different. 

The specific range of styles worn by 


each sex tends to differ somewhat 
from one decade to another, and so it 
is impractical to lay down any hard and 
fast rule beyond the simple principle 
enunciated above. Yet it is a very im- 
portant matter to God, since the verse 
ends with the solemn words “for all 
that do so are abomination unto the 
Lord thy God.” It is therefore very 
questionable whether this particular 
provision of the Mosaic Law is to be 
relegated to the status of mere ritual 
matters, to be done away with by the 
emancipation of the New Testament 
believers from the yoke of the Old Tes- 
tament legal code. Proper dress and 
modest clothing are certainly stressed 
in the New Testament as important for 
a convincing Christian testimony be- 
fore the world (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9), and the 
dedicated believer is to dress to please 
the Lord rather than himself. 

Aren’t the Mosaic instructions concern- 
ing divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 at var- 
iance with the teaching of Jesus (Mark 
10:2-12) and Paul (1 Cor. 7:10-16)? 

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not actu- 
ally bestow any divine approval or 
blessing on divorce as such. It simply 
recognizes that divorce was practiced 
in Israelite society and seeks to miti- 
gate the hardship and injustice accru- 
ing to the wife when her husband, dis- 
pleased with her for some reason, de- 
cides to put her away and send her 
back to her parents. The asv renders 
v.l thus: “When a man taketh a wife, 
and marrieth her, then it shall be, if 
she find no favor in his eyes, because 
he hath found some unseemly thing in 
her, that he shall write her a bill of di- 
vorcement, and give it in her hand, 
and send her out of his house.” The 
nasb modifies the translation so as 
to eliminate the prescriptive thrust of 
the passage, rendering it: “When a man 
takes a wife . . . and it happens that she 
finds no favor in his eyes because he 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


has found some indecency in her, and 
he writes her [w e katab lah can be so 
rendered, instead of in a prescriptive 
way as it is in kjv and asv] a certificate 
of divorce and puts it in her hand and 
sends her out from his house,” leaving 
the sentence to continue on through 
vv.2-4, rather than stopping at the end 
of v.l. 

Whichever way the verse is con- 
strued, it indicates that the husband 
must put the divorce certificate in his 
wife’s hand as he sends her away. This 
had the effect of surrendering all his 
rights to the dowry that she had 
brought into the marriage. Otherwise 
he might wrongfully appropriate the 
dowry property as his own, falsely al- 
leging that she had voluntarily left him 
for an indefinitely long visit at her par- 
ents’ home and that no real divorce 
had taken place. 

When this passage was mentioned to 
Jesus in Mark 10:2-12 (and in the 
parallel account in Matt. 19:1-9), He 
explained to the Pharisees who ques- 
tioned Him, “Because of your hard- 
ness of heart he [Moses] wrote you this 
commandment” (nasb). He then dis- 
cussed Genesis 2:24 with this closing 
comment: “and the two shall be- 
come one flesh; consequently they are 
no longer two, but one flesh. What 
therefore God has joined together, let 
no man separate” (vv.8-9, nasb). He 
then went on to specify (following 
Matthew’s fuller report of the word- 
ing): “And I say to you, whoever di- 
vorces his wife, except for [sexual] 
immorality, and marries another 
commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9, nasb). 
In other words, it was never God’s in- 
tention or desire for divorce to occur 
after a true and lawful marriage — 
unless the relationship was broken up 
by an adulterous union with a third 
party. The pre-Christian practice of 
divorce was therefore in that class of 
offenses that were permitted for a time 
because of the “hardness of men’s 
hearts” but which would be done away 


with (along with polygamy and slavery) 
by those who belonged to the kingdom 
of God. Under the new covenant these 
concessions to selfishness and unkind- 
ness would be abolished; and the true, 
original purpose of God would be 
exalted in the godly walk of believers 
who look to Christ Himself as their 
model. 

In the sense that what Deuteronomy 
24 permitted was no longer to be 
allowed in the New Testament age, 
there was a very definite change. But 
the Deuteronomy provision was to be 
recognized as a merely temporary 
measure, not really corresponding to 
God’s ideal and purpose in marriage, 
and destined for abrogation in the 
new age ushered in by the Messiah, 
Jesus Christ. 

As for 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, it is 
more than doubtful that this deals with 
true divorce. See the article discussing 
this passage, entitled: “Does 1 Corint- 
hians 7:10-16 authorize divorce for 
desertion?” 

Deuteronomy 24:16 says that children 
will not be killed for the sins of the 
fathers. Yet 2 Samuel 12:15-18 shows that 
the baby born to David and Bathsheba 
died because of their sin. Later, in 
2 Samuel 21:5-9, Saul’s seven grand- 
children were put to death because of his 
sin, in order to bring the three-year famine 
to an end. How do we reconcile these? 

Deuteronomy 24:16 lays down a 
general principle that human courts 
and human governments are not to 
impute to children or grandchildren 
the guilt of their parents or forebears 
when they themselves have not become 
implicated in the crime committed. It 
is clearly recognized in Scripture that 
each person stands on his own record 
before God. If one is personally guilty 
of unbelief or wickedness and fails to 
repent and trust in God’s mercy 
through the blood shed on the altar, 
that person will die for his own sin — 


152 


DEUTERONOMY 


not for that of his father. But if the 
child is upright and a true believer, he 
is justified before God; yet he cannot 
be justified on the basis of his father’s 
righteousness if he himself rejects the 
grace of God (Jer. 31:29-30; Ezek. 
18:1-20). On at least one occasion it is 
mentioned in the history of Judah that 
after the assassination of King Joash, 
his son Amaziah punished only his as- 
sassins themselves, sparing their chil- 
dren (2 Kings 14:6). 

Although this legal principle of deal- 
ing with each person according to his 
deeds is firmly laid down in Scripture, 
it is also made clear that God retained 
for Himself the responsibility of ulti- 
mate judgment in the matter of capital 
crime. In the case of the child con- 
ceived by Bathsheba of David when 
she was married to Uriah, the loss of 
that baby (in that Old Testament set- 
ting) was a judgment visited on the 
guilty parents for their gross sin (which 
actually merited the death penalty 
under Lev. 20:10). It is by no means 
suggested that the child was suffering 
punishment for his parents’ sin but 
that they were being punished by his 
death. 

In the case of King Saul’s grand- 
children, no ordinary crime was in- 
volved. It was a matter of national 
guilt on a level that affected Israel as a 
whole. We are not given any informa- 
tion as to the time or the circumstances 
of Saul’s massacre of the Gibeonites, 
but we are told that it was a grave 
breach of a covenant entered into back 
in the days of Joshua and enacted in 
the name of Yahweh (Josh. 9:3-15). 
All the nation was bound by this oath 
for all the days to come, even though it 
had been obtained under false pre- 
tenses. Therefore when Saul, as head 
of the Israelite government, commit- 
ted this atrocity against the innocent 
Gibeonites, God saw to it that this cov- 
enant violation did not go unpun- 
ished. He sent a plague to decimate 
the population of all Israel, until the 


demands of justice could be met. God 
had delayed this visitation until it 
would do the least possible damage to 
the security of the nation, that is, until 
after the surrounding nations had 
been defeated and subdued to the rule 
of King David. 

However, the high mortality result- 
ing from the famine compelled David 
to inquire of the Lord what was the 
reason for this new calamity. God’s an- 
swer came to him: “It is for Saul and 
his bloody house, because he put the 
Gibeonites to death” (2 Sam. 21:1, 
nasb). Saul himself and his sons had 
already fallen in battle, slain by the 
Philistines at the battle of Mount Gil- 
boa; but the full measure of his guilt 
had yet to be paid for. This vengeance 
had to be visited on seven descendants 
of that king, for seven was a number 
symbolizing the complete work of God. 
Israel had to learn by this solemn ob- 
ject lesson that their covenants with 
foreign nations, sworn to in the name 
of Yahweh, had to be observed at all 
costs. 

Under special circumstances, then, 
the general rule of safeguarding chil- 
dren against punishment for the sins 
of their parents was subject to excep- 
tions, so far as God’s administration of 
justice was concerned. In each of the 
above cases it is fair to conclude that if 
the children involved had been permit- 
ted to live out a normal lifespan, they 
would have chosen to follow in the evil 
example of their forebears and thus 
occasioned much suffering and woe to 
others. Only God could know that 
for a certainty, however, for only He 
can foreknow the potential of each 
new soul. For man to inflict such pre- 
ventive penalty without express per- 
mission from God (as in the case of 
Joshua and the population of Jericho) 
would be the height of injustice and 
presumption. 

How could Moses have written the first 
five books of the Bible when the fifth 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


book, Deuteronomy, reports his burial in 
an unknown grave? 

Obviously Moses did not write in ad- 
vance the account of his own death. 
Deuteronomy 34 is an obituary written 
by a friend and contemporary, possibly 
Joshua the son of Nun (v.9). Under the 
guidance and inspiration of the Holy 
Spirit, then, Joshua possibly appended 
an appropriate record of the death 
and burial of his revered master and 
framed the eloquent praise with which 
the book closes. 

What inference may we draw from 
this? Does the insertion of an obituary 
in the final work of any author imply 
that he was not truly the author of the 
main text of that book? Before me lies 
a copy of Roland de Vaux’s excellent 
volume Archaeology and the Dead Sea 
Scrolls. This is a revised English edition 
of the Schweich Lectures he delivered 
at Oxford in 1959, published by Ox- 
ford University in 1973. On page vi is a 


brief foreword signed by Kathleen 
Kenyon, which opens with the follow- 
ing words: “It is sad that Roland de 
Vaux did not live to see the translation 
of his Schweich Lectures appear.” 
This, then, is a kind of obituary notice 
that is added to the main text of the 
book. In other terminal works pro- 
duced by famous authors, the obituary 
appears as the last chapter in the book. 
Often that obituary is not signed. 

So it is with Deuteronomy, the final 
work composed by Moses under the 
inspiration of God. Just as no respon- 
sible student of literature would think 
of impugning the authenticity of de 
Vaux’s volume simply because of the 
obituary inserted by Kenyon, so doubts 
should not be raised as to the genuine- 
ness of the Mosaic authorship of 
Deuteronomy 1-33 — or indeed of any 
of the books of the Pentateuch — 
simply on the ground of the obituary 
contained in chapter 34. 


154 


Joshua 


Did God approve of Rahab’s lie (Josh. 
2:4-5)? 

Scripture unequivocally condemns 
lying as a sin. In Leviticus 19:11 the 
Lord says, “You shall not steal, nor 
deal falsely, nor lie to one another” 
(nasb). In Proverbs 12:22 we read, 
“Lying lips are an abomination to the 
Lord, but those who deal faithfully are 
His delight” (nasb). In the New Tes- 
tament Paul exhorts the Ephesians in 
4:25: “Therefore, laying aside false- 
hood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of yOU, 

with his neighbor, for we are mem- 
bers of one another” (nasb). These and 
many other passages make it clear that 
God is never pleased when people fail 
to tell the truth. 

On the other hand, falsehood like 
every other sin can be fully atoned for 
by the blood of Christ on Calvary, 
when the liar becomes convicted in his 
conscience concerning his guilt and 
heartily repents of it. A contrite be- 
liever may claim the atoning merit of 
Christ and be completely forgiven. 
What this adds up to is the following 
principle that covers God’s dealings 
with sinners: (1) the Lord has always 
condemned sin, so much so that He 
laid the guilt of every sin on His sinless 
Son when He died for sinners on the 
cross; (2) the Lord does not accept sin- 
ners as partakers of His redemption be- 
cause of their sins but rather because of 
their faith. Even Abraham sinned in 
Egypt when he lied about Sarah’s status 


as his wife — though he felt compelled 
to do so in order to avoid being killed 
on her account (Gen. 12:12-19). David 
lied to the high priest Ahimelech when 
he told him that Saul had sent him to 
Nob on government business, even 
though he was actually fleeing from 
Saul to save his life (1 Sam. 21:2). 

In Rahab’s case there were special 
factors that operated in her favor, and 
they should not be overlooked, even if 
they do not altogether excuse her 
mendacity. In this particular case the 
lie meant for her a step of faith that 
put her very life in jeopardy. The safer 
thing for her to do was tell the truth 
and let the police officials of Jericho 
know that she had two Hebrew spies 
hidden under her piles of flax stalks 
drying under the sun on top of her 
roof. But she had given her solemn 
word, apparently, to the two fugitives 
that she would not betray them to the 
king’s agents. At any rate, she pro- 
fessed a very firm conviction that the 
Israelite forces would capture and 
destroy Jericho, even though from the 
standpoint of military science it looked 
as if Jericho was virtually impregna- 
ble. “The Lord your God, He is God in 
heaven above and on earth beneath. 
Now therefore, please swear to me by 
the Lord” (Josh. 2:11-12, nasb). For a 
woman of ill fame and a completely 
pagan upbringing to attain such a con- 
viction concerning the one true God 
was a far more striking display of faith 
than was the case of the patriarchs and 


155 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


the people of Moses who had been 
brought up in the truth of God. She 
had to turn her back on her own 
people and the cultural tradition in 
which she had been reared in order to 
take such a step as this and to throw in 
her lot with the covenant nation of Is- 
rael. She literally risked her life for the 
cause of the Lord, as she told that lie to 
the arresting officers. She might very 
easily have been discovered. A single 
sneeze or bodily movement on the part 
of the hidden spies would have sealed 
her doom — as well as theirs. Therefore 
we should recognize that there were 
very unusual extenuating factors in- 
volved in her deception. 

The commitment Rahab made to 
Yahweh and His lordship led her to 
join the ranks of Israel after they cap- 
tured Jericho and leveled it to the 
ground (Josh. 6:17-25); and she later 
married Salmon of the tribe of Judah 
and by him became the mother of Boaz 
and the ancestress of King David 
(Matt. 1:5-6). Despite her sinful past 
her faith was reckoned to her for 
righteousness, not only by the Lord, 
but also by His people; and she as- 
sumed a position of honor as an ances- 
tress of the Lord Jesus Himself. In 
Hebrews 1 1:31 we read this tribute to 
her courage and faith: “By faith Rahab 
the harlot did not perish along with 
those who were disobedient, after she 
had welcomed the spies in peace” 
(nasb). In James 2:25 the apostle 
commends her faith as genuine and ef- 
fectual because she expressed that 
faith by “works, when she received the 
messengers and sent them out by 
another way” (nasb). 

Joshua 3:17 suggests that the Israelite 
host had already crossed the Jordan, but 
Joshua 4:4,10-11 imply that they had not 
done so. How can these verses be har- 
monized? 

Joshua 3:17 tells us that the priests 
carrying the ark of the covenant re- 


mained standing in the middle of the 
crossing until all the rest of the con- 
gregation had passed over to the west 
bank. Joshua 4:4 then relates how 
twelve men, one from each tribe, were 
directed to go back from the west bank 
to the midway point where the priests 
were still standing with the ark. There 
they were to dig up twelve sizable 
stones out of the bed of the river and 
carry them over to the location of the 
first encampment of the host on the 
Canaan side of the Jordan (v.8). This 
cairn of twelve mid-river stones was to 
serve as a memorial to this epoch- 
making event in Israel’s history (vv. 
6-7). 

Joshua 4:10-11 concludes the epi- 
sode by recording how the ark- 
carrying priests finally left their post at 
the midway point of the riverbed and 
finished their crossing with the ark all 
the way to the west bank. There they 
continued on their way until they had 
come to the forefront of the entire con- 
gregation and preceded them to their 
new camping ground at Gilgal (cf. v.19). 
Not until all Israel was safely across — 
including the priests and the ark — 
were the waters of the Jordan, which 
had been dammed up at Adam (3:16), 
allowed to flow downstream once more 
into the Dead Sea. There is therefore 
no discrepancy here at all, and the ac- 
count is perfectly clear. 

Has not the Joshua 6 account of the capture 
of Jericho by the Israelites been discredited 
by the modern archaeological investiga- 
tions at Tell es-Sultan? 

On the contrary, the testimony of 
the cemetery connected with City IV at 
Tell es-Sultan (which is generally 
agreed to be the site of Old Testament 
Jericho) is quite conclusive in favor of a 
date around 1400 b.c., which is in 
complete conformity with a 1446 date 
for the Exodus itself. After several 
years of thorough archaeological in- 
vestigation, John Garstang discovered 


156 


JOSHUA 


that of the many scarabs found in the 
graves of this cemetery, not a single 
one dates from a period later than 
Amenhotep III of Egypt (1412-1376 
B.c.). It is impossible to explain why no 
scarabs bearing the cartouche of any 
later Pharaoh was ever found at that 
level if indeed the destruction of City 
IV took place in the mid-thirteenth 
century (as modern scholarship gener- 
ally maintains today). How could there 
have been no scarabs from the reign of 
any of the numerous Pharaohs be- 
tween Amenhotep III and Ramses II? 

Furthermore, of the 150,000 frag- 
ments of pottery discovered in this 
cemetery, only a single sherd has been 
found that is of the Mycenean type. 
Since Mycenean ware began to be im- 
ported into Palestine from 1400 and 
onward, it is difficult to explain why 
virtually none of it was found in the 
City IV cemetery unless that cemetery 
was abandoned around 1400 b.c. 

Kathleen Kenyon’s later investiga- 
tions at Tell es-Sultan led her to ques- 
tion Garstang’s identification of the 
collapsed walls with City IV, because 
the potsherds found in the earth-fill of 
those walls were from a period cen- 
turies earlier than 1400 b.c. The 
soundness of this deduction is open to 
question, however, because the same 
phenomenon would be observable if 
the walls of Avila in Spain or Car- 
casonne in France were to be leveled 
by an earthquake in our own genera- 
tion. Since those walls were erected 
several centuries ago, the Kenyon cri- 
terion would compel us to believe that 
they must have fallen centuries ago, 
because they would, of course, contain 
no internal evidence of twentieth- 
century construction. But no discovery 
of Kenyon or Vincent — or any other 
excavator at that site who came there 
with a prior commitment to a 1250 
date for the Israelite conquest of 
Canaan — has ever been able to shake 
the objective findings of Garstang and 
his team in regard to the scarabs and 


sherds found in the City IV cemetery. 
(See Garstang’s remarks on this in the 
article on 1 Kings 6: 1 and the date of 
the Exodus.) 

Readers desirous of an extended 
discussion of the soundness of the bib- 
lical date for the Exodus itself (i.e., 
1446 b.c.) are referred to my A Survey 
of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 223- 
34. A more recent work by an able 
young British scholar is that of John J. 
Bimson ( Redating the Exodus and the 
Conquest [Sheffield: University of Shef- 
field, 1978]). Bimson shows how much 
of the archaeological evidence has 
been systematically manipulated by a 
process of circular reasoning on the 
part of the leading interpreters of ar- 
chaeological data. He reviews the ob- 
jective testimony of the stratigraphy 
and the artifacts and comes to a firm 
conclusion in favor of a fifteenth- 
century date of the Israelite Exodus 
and conquest of Canaan. This discus- 
sion is all the more impressive since 
Bimson himself does not hold to an 
Evangelical view of the inerrancy of 
Scripture but feels compelled to set the 
record straight so far as archaeology is 
concerned. (See also the article on 
1 Kings 6: 1 and the date of the Exodus.) 

Was Joshua justified in exterminating 
the population of Jericho? 

In Joshua 6:21 we read, “And they 
utterly destroyed everything in the 
city, both man and woman, young and 
old, and ox and sheep and donkey, 
with the edge of the sword (nasb). 
Verses 22-23 go on to say that Rahab 
the harlot, who had risked her life in 
order to save the two Israelite spies 
who had come earlier in order to re- 
connoiter the city, was spared from 
death, along with her entire family — as 
the two spies had promised that she 
would be. But everything combustible 
in the city was put to the torch; and all 
articles of gold, silver, iron and bronze 


157 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


were devoted to the treasury of the 
tabernacle. 

Such complete destruction might 
appear to be needlessly harsh, since it 
included infants who were too young 
to have committed overt sin, even 
though the older children and the 
adults may all have fallen into utter 
depravity. Should we not understand 
this severity to be the result of a savage 
Bedouin mentality on the part of the 
wilderness warriors rather than a puni- 
tive measure ordained of God? 

In answer to this humanitarian ob- 
jection, we need to recognize first of all 
that the biblical record indicates that 
Joshua was simply carrying out God’s 
orders in this matter. In other words, 
the same account that tells of the mas- 
sacre itself is the account that tells of 
God’s command to carry it out. There- 
fore we must recognize that our criti- 
cism cannot be leveled at Joshua or the 
Israelites but at the God whose bidding 
they obeyed. (Otherwise we must 
demonstrate our own special compe- 
tence to correct the biblical record on 
the basis of our own notions of proba- 
bility as to what God might or might 
not decide to do.) If criticism there be, 
we should not stop there, for the de- 
struction of Jericho was far smaller an 
affair than the annihilation of the 
populations of Sodom and Gomorrah 
and their allies in Genesis 19:24-25. 
And then again this volcanic catas- 
trophe was far less significant in the 
loss of life than Noah’s Flood, which, 
except for Noah’s family, wiped out 
the entire human race. 

Back in Genesis 15:16 God had 
forewarned Abraham: “Then in the 
fourth generation [i.e., in four hun- 
dred years, after the migration to 
Egypt, since Abraham was one hun- 
dred before he became the father 
of Isaac] they [the Israelites] shall re- 
turn here [to Canaan], for the iniquity 
of the Amorite is not yet complete” 
(nasb). The implication of this last 
statement was that when the wicked- 


ness of the inhabitants of Canaan had 
reached a predetermined accumula- 
tion of guilt, then God would have 
them removed from the Land of 
Promise intended for Abraham and 
his seed. 

The loss of innocent life in the dem- 
olition of Jericho was much to be re- 
gretted, but we must recognize that 
there are times when only radical 
surgery will save the life of a cancer- 
stricken body. The whole population 
of the antediluvian civilization had be- 
come hopelessly infected with the 
cancer of moral depravity (Gen. 6:5). 
Had any of them been permitted to 
live while still in rebellion against God, 
they might have infected Noah’s family 
as well. The same was true of the de- 
testable inhabitants of Sodom, wholly 
given over to the depravity of homo- 
sexuality and rape, in the days of 
Abraham and Lot. As with the Benja- 
mites of Gibeah at a later period (Judg. 
19:22-30; 20:43-48), the entire popu- 
lation had to be destroyed. So also it 
was with Jericho and Ai as well (Josh. 
8:18-26); likewise with Makkedah 
(Josh. 10:28), Lachish (v.32), Eglon 
(v.35), Debir (v.39), and all the cities of 
the Negev and the Shephelah (v.40). 
In the northern campaign against 
Hazor, Madon, Shimron, and Ach- 
shaph, the same thorough destruction 
was meted out (Josh. 11:11-14). 

In every case the baneful infection 
of degenerate idolatry and moral de- 
pravity had to be removed before Is- 
rael could safely settle down in these 
regions and set up a monotheistic, 
law-governed commonwealth as a tes- 
timony for the one true God. Much as 
we regret the terrible loss of life, we 
must remember that far greater mis- 
chief would have resulted if they had 
been permitted to live on in the midst 
of the Hebrew nation. These incorri- 
gible degenerates of the Canaanite 
civilization were a sinister threat to the 
spiritual survival of Abraham’s race. 
The failure to carry through corn- 


158 


JOSHUA 


pletely the policy of the extermination 
of the heathen in the Land of Promise 
later led to the moral and religious 
downfall of the Twelve Tribes in the 
daysof the Judges (Judg. 2:1-3, 10-15, 
19-23). Not until the time of David, 
some centuries later, did the Israelites 
succeed in completing their conquest of 
all the land that had been promised to 
the descendants of Abraham (cf. Gen. 
15:18-21). This triumph was only pos- 
sible in a time of unprecedented reli- 
gious vigor and purity of faith and 
practice such as prevailed under the 
leadership of King David, “a man after 
God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 
13:22). 

In our Christian dispensation true 
believers possess resources for resist- 
ing the corrupting influence of uncon- 
verted worldlings such as were hardly 
available to the people of the old cov- 
enant. As warriors of Christ who have 
yielded our members to Him as 
“weapons of righteousness” (Rom. 
6:13) and whose bodies are indwelt 
and empowered by God the Holy 
Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), we are well able to 
lead our lives in the midst of a corrupt 
and degenerate non-Christian culture 
(whether in the Roman Empire or in 
modern secularized Europe or 
America) and still keep true to God. 
We have the example of the Cross and 
the victory of the Resurrection of 
Christ our Lord, and he goes with us 
everywhere and at all times as we carry 
out the Great Commission. 

As New Testament believers, the 
weapons of our warfare are not carnal 
but spiritual, “mighty through God to 
the pulling down of strongholds; cast- 
ing down imaginations, and every high 
thing that exalteth itself against the 
knowledge of God, and bringing into 
captivity every thought to the obedi- 
ence of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). These 
weapons, far mightier than those of 
Joshua, are able to capture men’s 
hearts for God; and we have no occa- 
sion as ambassadors for Christ to re- 


sort to physical weapons to protect our 
faith and land (as the Israelites were 
compelled to do, if they were to survive 
spiritually). But on the contrary we 
carry on a life-saving offensive as 
fishers of men, and we go after the un- 
saved and unconverted wherever they 
are to be found. But we must recognize 
that our situation is far more advan- 
tageous than theirs, and our prospects 
of victory over the world are far bright- 
er than theirs. For this we can thank 
God. But we must refrain from con- 
demnation of those who lived in the 
very different situation that prevailed 
before the Cross and recognize that 
they acted in obedience and faith to- 
ward God when they carried out his 
orders concerning the Canaanites. 

How can Joshua’s altar on Mount Ebal 
(Josh. 8:30) be reconciled with the later 
condemnation of the “high places”? 

It should be quite obvious that a 
later denunciation of the idolatrous 
cult-centers known as “high places” 
( bamol ) could have no retroactive effect 
on altars erected to the worship of 
Yahweh in a time prior to the estab- 
lishment of Solomon’s temple in Jeru- 
salem (ca. 960 b.c.). Those strictures 
that were later directed at the rival 
shrines established by Jeroboam I (ca. 
930 b.c.), to divert his subjects of the 
northern kingdom from worshiping at 
the Jerusalem temple at the various 
holy festivals during the year, were 
erected in clear violation of God’s 
ordinance in Deuteronomy 12:2-14. 
This passage required the total de- 
struction of every altar devoted to the 
worship of false gods, together with 
their sacred pillars ( massebot ) and 
wooden posts ('"sertm ) — which repre- 
sented the abiding place of the male 
deity and his female consort, respec- 
tively, according to the Canaanite 
superstition — and confined worship to 
a single national sanctuary (vv.2-6). No 
particular location is designated for 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


this central sanctuary — actually it 
shifted from Gilgal to Shiloh to Gibeon 
at various times between the conquest 
and the Solomonic temple — but it was 
set up wherever the tabernacle and its 
altar of burnt offering was located. 
After the Solomonic sanctuary was 
finally completed and solemnly dedi- 
cated at a great national assembly 
(1 Kings 8), it was understood that 
all sacrifice should be offered at that 
great temple and there alone. 

Yet it was that same Solomon who 
later, under the influence of his idol- 
worshiping foreign wives, authorized 
the building of a bamah (or hilltop 
shrine) to Chemosh, the god of Moab, 
and to Milcom, the god of Ammon 
(1 Kings 11:5), and doubtless to other 
pagan deities as well, including those 
favored by his Egyptian wife, who was 
the daughter of the reigning Pha- 
raoh. This evil example led to a more 
general disregard for the prohibi- 
tion of Deuteronomy 12:2-14, and 
bambt began to be erected in many dif- 
ferent cult centers, both in the north- 
ern kingdom (following the lead of 
King Jeroboam) and in the kingdom of 
Judah as well. The latter were periodi- 
cally destroyed during times of reli- 
gious revival under Asa (2 Chron. 
14:3 — although not in a thorough or 
permanent way; cf. 1 Kings 15:12-14), 
Jehoshaphat, Asa’s son (2 Chron. 
17:6), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4), and 
Josiah (2 Kings 23:4-8). 

Apparently some of the Judean 
bamott had been cult centers for Yah- 
weh worship, and their purpose had 
been to serve the convenience of the 
local populace in the various prov- 
inces of the kingdom. Nevertheless 
they were maintained in violation of 
the law of the central sanctuary in 
Deuteronomy 12, and they were so 
denounced by the true prophets of 
God. Second Kings 23:8 suggests that 
some of these shrines were served by 
Levitical priests, but the fact that they 
were not put to death according to the 


law of Deut. 13, which required the ex- 
ecution of anyone guilty of idolatry, 
strongly suggests that they served at 
local altars dedicated to Yahweh. At 
the time of Josiah’s reformation they 
were allowed to live and even to par- 
take of food dedicated to the support 
of the Aaronic priesthood, but they 
were forbidden access to the true tem- 
ple in Jerusalem. 

Joshua’s altar on Mount Ebal, which 
served the needs of the entire congre- 
gation of Israel at the solemn renewal 
of the national covenant (Josh. 8:30- 
35), was thoroughly in keeping with 
the earlier law of the altar promul- 
gated in Exodus 20:24-25: “In every 
place where I cause My name to be 
remembered, I will come to you and 
bless you” (nasb). Even after the com- 
pletion of the Solomonic temple, situa- 
tions arose in the history of the north- 
ern kingdom where the erection of an 
altar was approved and blessed by God 
on the occasion of a great national 
crisis. Such was that of Elijah on the 
summit of Mount Carmel, where the 
miraculous fire from heaven on his 
burnt offering served to demonstrate 
to Ahab and his armies that Yahweh 
was the true and living God and that 
Baal was only a figment of the imagi- 
nation of Jezebel’s prophets (1 Kings 
18:30-39). 

Why did Israel have to keep its covenant 
with the Gibeonites after they obtained 
that covenant through fraud (Josh. 9)? 

Joshua 9 recounts the crafty decep- 
tion practiced by the Gibeonite envoys 
(vv.4-5) when they came to the camp 
of Israel to conclude a treaty of alliance 
and peace. They lied by saying that 
they had come “from a very far coun- 
try” (v.9) because of their admiration 
for the God of Israel, who had so won- 
derfully prospered His people. They 
alleged that they had come from such a 
distance that their nice fresh bread had 
become old and brittle by the time they 


160 


JOSHUA 


arrived at Gilgal. Actually Gibeon was 
less than a day’s journey away. Un- 
questionably they had been guilty of 
misrepresentations and had lured Is- 
rael into an alliance by the use of de- 
ception. Under normal conditions, 
therefore, the Israelites would not 
have been obliged to keep their con- 
tract with them. Any court of law 
would have absolved them from 
adherence to their promises in view of 
the calculated deception practiced by 
the Gibeonites. 

This however, was no ordinary con- 
tract engagement, for it was sealed by a 
solemn oath taken in the name of 
Yahweh their God. Since they did not 
first consult God about the matter, 
prior to entering into an agreement 
with these heathen Canaanites, they 
were bound to keep their covenant 
promises that had been sworn to in the 
name of Yahweh (v.15). Feeling that 
they could rely on their own good 
judgment and on the evidence of the 
dry, crumbling bread, the Israelites 
had neglected to go to God in prayer 
about the matter (v. 14). Therefore 
they were bound by their oath, even 
into the indefinite future. Failure to 
keep this covenant obligation was one 
of the offenses for which God visited 
judgment on Israel, because Saul had 
put some of the Gibeonites to death 
(2 Sam. 21:1-14). 

What is the explanation of the prolonged 
day in Joshua 10:12-14? (D*) 

The Book of Joshua records several 
miracles, but none perhaps as note- 
worthy or as widely discussed as that 
pertaining to the twenty-four-hour 
prolongation of the day in which 
the battle of Gibeon was fought 
(10:12-14). It has been objected that if 
in fact the earth was stopped in its rota- 
tion for a period of twenty-four hours, 
inconceivable catastrophe would have 
befallen the entire planet and every- 
thing on its surface. While those who 


believe in the omnipotence of God 
would hardly concede that Yahweh 
could not have prevented such catas- 
trophe and held in abeyance those 
physical laws that might have brought 
it to pass, it does not seem to be abso- 
lutely necessary (on the basis of the 
Hebrew text itself) to hold that the 
planet was suddenly halted in its rota- 
tion. Verse 13 states that the sun “did 
not hasten to go down for about a 
whole day” (nasb). The words “did not 
hasten” seem to point to a retardation 
of the movement so that the rotation 
required forty-eight hours rather than 
the usual twenty-four. 

In support of this interpretation, re- 
search has brought to light reports 
from Egyptian, Chinese, and Hindu 
sources of a long day. Harry Rimmer 
reports that some astronomers have 
come to the conclusion that one full 
day is missing in our astronomical cal- 
culation. Rimmer states that Pickering 
of the Harvard Observatory traced this 
missing day back to the time of Joshua; 
likewise has Totten of Yale (cf. Ber- 
nard Ramm, The Christian View of Sci- 
ence and Scripture [Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1954], p. 159). Ramm re- 
ports, however, that he was unable to 
document this report, possibly because 
those universities preferred not to keep 
records of this sort in their archives. 

Another possibility has been de- 
duced from a slightly different in- 
terpretation of the word dom (trans- 
lated in kjv as “stand thou still”). This 
verb usually signifies to be silent, 
cease, or leave off. E.W. Maunders 
of Greenwich and Robert Dick Wil- 
son of Princeton therefore interpreted 
Joshua’s prayer to be a petition that the 
sun cease pouring down its heat on his 
struggling troops so that they might be 
permitted to press the battle under 
more favorable conditions. The tre- 
mendously destructive hailstorm that 
accompanied the battle lends some 
credence to this view, and it has been 
advocated by men of unquestioned or- 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


thodoxy. Nevertheless it must be ad- 
mitted that v.13 seems to favor a pro- 
longation of the day: “And the sun 
stopped in the middle of the sky, and 
did not hasten to go down for about a 
whole day” (nasb). 

Keil and Delitzsch (Joshua, Judges, 
Ruth, p. 110) suggest that a miraculous 
prolongation of the day would have 
taken place if it seemed to Joshua and 
all Israel to be supernaturally pro- 
longed, because they were able to ac- 
complish in it the work of two days. It 
would have been very difficult for 
them to tell whether the earth was 
rotating at a normal rate if the earth’s 
rotation furnished their only criterion 
for measuring time. They add another 
possibility, that God may have pro- 
duced an optical prolongation of the 
sunshine, continuing its visibility after 


the normal setting time by means of a 
special refraction of the rays. 

Hugh J. Blair (“Joshua,” in Guthrie, 
New Bible Commentary, p. 244) suggests 
that Joshua’s prayer was made early in 
the morning, since the moon was in the 
west and the sun was in the east. The 
answer came in the form of a hailstorm 
that prolonged the darkness and thus 
facilitated the surprise attack of the 
Israelites. Hence in the darkness of the 
storm the defeat of the enemy was com- 
pleted; and we should speak of Joshua’s 
“long night” rather than Joshua’s “long 
day.” This of course is essentially the 
view of Maunders and Wilson. Such an 
interpretation necessitates no stopping 
of the earth on its axis, but it hardly fits 
in with the statement of Joshua 10:13 
and is therefore of dubious validity. 


162 


Judges 


Exactly how did Sisera die? Judges 5: 
24-27 seems to disagree with Judges 4:21 
at this point. And how could Jael be con- 
sidered praiseworthy in this act of murder? 

Judges 4:21 tells us that Jael, the 
wife of Heber, went up to her sleeping 
guest, placed a long, sharp tent-peg 
over his temple, and then drove it 
down into his skull with a single blow 
of her hammer. Presumably she had 
first made him comfortable on a cot, 
then placed a blanket over him to keep 
him warm. Judges 5:24-27 confirms 
the information that she had first 
given him a refreshing cup of yogurt 
before he settled down for his nap. 
Then, after he was fast asleep, she 
drove the tent peg into his skull in the 
same manner as 4:21 had described it, 
thus killing him instantly. Verse 27 
adds the graphic detail that after the 
impact of that blow his body convul- 
sively lurched on the floor of the tent, 
right between Jael’s feet. There is no 
contradiction here at any level, and it is 
hard to see why this question should 
ever have been raised. 

The more difficult question has to 
do with the moral evaluation of Jael’s 
act. She certainly was guilty of violation 
of the sacred duty of protecting a guest 
who had been received peaceably into 
her home. Technically she was guilty 
of first-degree murder. And even 
though the text of Judges nowhere 
says that God Himself approved of her 
deed, there can be no doubt that Deb- 


orah, God’s prophetess (4:4), regarded 
it as a praiseworthy act; and both she 
and her colleague Barak, who col- 
laborated in the defeat of Sisera’s army 
and the liberation of Israel from Jabin’s 
oppression, gave dramatic expression 
in chapter 5 to their approval or ad- 
miration of her daring in thus dis- 
patching this dreaded warrior. 

In evaluating Jael’s act, there are 
several factors to be brought into 
focus. For one thing, after the defeat 
of Sisera’s army and the reestablish- 
ment of Israelite government, Jael 
would be liable to a charge of harbor- 
ing a fugitive criminal if she did re- 
ceive him as a guest into her tent. Fur- 
thermore, Jael, being apparently alone 
at the time, was in no position to refuse 
him entrance, armed and powerful war- 
rior as he was, or to order him to go on 
and seek refuge somewhere else. Un- 
doubtedly, had she attempted this, he 
would have forced his way into the tent 
anyway; and probably he would have 
killed her first, in order to keep her 
from betraying his whereabouts. Fi- 
nally, Sisera represented a brutal and 
tyrannous oppression of God’s people 
that might well be renewed at a later 
time, if he were permitted to escape. 
This meant that Jael herself would 
have been involved in the guilt of the 
slaughter of many innocent lives in 
Sisera’s future career of aggression 
against the northern tribes of Israel. 
She was not ready to involve herself in 
complicity with this guilt. Nor was she 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


willing to face the almost certain pros- 
pect that she and her husband would 
both be disgraced and put to death as 
traitors to Israel after the victorious 
troops of Deborah and Barak had 
traced Sisera’s flight to her home. Nor 
would Jael’s own sense of commitment 
to Yahweh and His people have per- 
mitted her to side with His enemy in 
this fashion. She therefore had little 
choice but to adopt the strategy that 
she did. Facing an anguishing alterna- 
tive between two moral principles, she 
had to choose the lesser of two evils. 

Why did God allow Jephthah’s foolish vow 
to run its course? (D*) 

The nature of Jephthah’s vow has 
been much misunderstood. In Judges 
11:30-31 Jephthah, on the eve of his 
decisive conflict with powerful Am- 
monite invaders, made a solemn prom- 
ise to God that if He would grant 
victory over the foe, then whoever 
would come forth from the doors of 
his home to meet him would become 
the property of the Lord: “And I will 
offer him up for a burnt offering.” 

Obviously it was some human being 
who was to be involved, someone from 
Jephthah’s household or some mem- 
ber of his family, and one who would 
care enough about Jephthah personally 
to become the first to greet him. The 
Hebrew text excludes the possibility 
of any animal serving as a candidate 
for this burnt offering since the phrase 
rendered “whatsoever cometh forth of 
the doors of my house” is never used 
of an animal (Keil and Delitzsch, Josw/ia, 
Judges, Ruth, p. 385). 

Had it been a beast, there would of 
course have been no problem about 
sacrificing it on the altar as a blood of- 
fering (which the Hebrew word for 
burnt offering [‘ olah ] normally im- 
plied). But in this special case, since it 
was to be a human member of the 
household who would be the first to 
greet Jephthah, it was out of the ques- 


tion for a literal blood sacrifice to be 
performed. Why? Because human sac- 
rifice was sternly and repeatedly for- 
bidden by God in his law (see Lev. 
18:21; 20:2-5; Deut. 12:31; 18:10). 

It would have been altogether un- 
thinkable for Jephthah or any other 
Israelite to imagine that he could 
please God by committing such a hein- 
ous and abhorrent abomination in His 
presence or at His altar. “You shall not 
behave thus toward [Yahweh] your 
God, for every abominable act which He 
[Yahweh] hates they [the Canaanites] 
have done for their gods; for they even 
burn their sons and daughters in fire 
to their gods. Whatever I command 
you, you shall be careful to do; you 
shall not add to nor take away from it” 
(Deut. 12:31-32). Again, we read in 
Deuteronomy 18:10-12: “There shall 
not be found among you anyone who 
makes his son or his daughter pass 
through the fire. . . . For whoever does 
these . . . detestable things Yahweh your 
God will drive them out before you.” 

In view of Yahweh’s well-known 
prohibition and expressed loathing for 
this practice, it would have amounted 
to a complete renunciation of God’s 
sovereignty for Jephthah to have 
undertaken such a thing. It would 
have been a repudiation of the very 
covenant that constituted Israel as 
God’s holy people. 

Equally incredible is the notion that 
God, foreknowing that Jephthah was 
intending thus to flout His law and 
trample on His covenant, would never- 
theless have granted him victory over 
the foe. The understanding of the 
event involves an intolerable theologi- 
cal difficulty, for it hopelessly com- 
promises the integrity of God Himself. 

What, then, actually did happen if 
Jephthah did not offer up his daugh- 
ter on the altar? As Delitzsch points 
out, the whole record of the manner in 
which this vow was carried out points 
to her dedication to the service of the 
Lord as a lifelong ministrant at the na- 


164 


JUDGES 


tional sanctuary. Judges 11:37-38 
states that she was allowed a mourning 
period of two months, not to bewail 
her approaching death, but rather to 
lament over her permanent virginity 
( b e tulim ) and the resultant extinction 
of her father’s line, since she was his 
only child. As one set apart for taber- 
nacle service (cf. Exod. 38:8; 1 Sam. 
2:22 for other references to these con- 
secrated virgins who performed ser- 
vice at the tabernacle), she would never 
become a mother; hence it is em- 
phasized that “she knew no man” (Judg. 
11:39). This would have been a point- 
less and inane remark if in fact she 
were put to death. 

Jephthah acted as a man of honor in 
carrying out his promise and present- 
ing his daughter as a living sacrifice, as 
all true Christians are bidden to pre- 
sent themselves (Rom. 12:1). Had he 
committed a detested abomination like 
the slaughter of his own child, he 
never would have been listed with the 
heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. (An ex- 
tended and skillful treatment of this 
whole issue is found in Keil and De- 
litzsch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, pp. 384- 
95). 

How could God have incited Samson to 
embark on a romance with a pagan girl as 
a means of stirring up strife between Is- 
rael and her neighbors (Judges 14:4)? 

Samson seems to have enjoyed cor- 
dial relations with the Philistine over- 
lords who held the tribe of Dan in vas- 
salage. These aggressive and warlike 
foreigners from Crete had held much 
of Israel in humiliating bondage for 
many years; and they were destined to 
plague them all through the period of 
Samuel and Saul until the final suc- 
cesses of King David around 1000 b.c. 
Samson was the one figure who could 
break the power of the Philistines; yet 
he was too concerned with his personal 
interests and pleasures to assume that 
task in a responsible fashion. His enor- 


mous physical strength and courage 
were hardly matched by his dedication 
to God’s call. Consecrated from infancy 
to serve the Lord as a Nazirite, he had 
developed a willful spirit that was com- 
pletely self-centered. Therefore the 
only way to rouse him against the op- 
pressors of his people was to allow him 
to get into a quarrel with them on the 
ground of his personal interest. His 
godly parents had urged him to have 
nothing to do with Philistine girls, no 
matter how pretty they were; but Sam- 
son brushed their admonitions aside 
and insisted on having his own way. 

It is in this context that v.4 informs 
us: “However, his father and mother 
did not know that it was of the Lord, 
for He was seeking an occasion against 
the Philistines. Now at that time the 
Philistines were ruling over Israel” 
(nasb). It was time for a new hero to 
appear and deliver the Israelites from 
heathen oppression, as had happened 
back in the days of Othniel, Ehud, and 
Gideon. But Samson was too wrapped 
up in himself to be attentive to God’s 
call. Therefore he needed some strong 
incentive to turn against the Philistines 
in retaliation for a wrong he had re- 
ceived from them. God used even this 
carnal reaction on Samson’s part to ac- 
complish His gracious purpose in 
lightening the load of their oppressors. 
The result of Samson’s resentment to- 
ward the Philistine wedding guests 
who had wormed out of his young 
bride the answer to his riddle was that 
he resorted to attacking the young 
men (possibly in the militia) at nearby 
Ashkelon in order to rob them of their 
garments in order to pay off his for- 
feited wager (14:19). 

In the aftermath of this episode, 
Samson’s unreasonable resentment at 
finding that the bride he had aban- 
doned in disgust had later been given 
to another man led to his burning 
down all the standing crops of that 
town. The result of this was, of course, 
the organizing of an expeditionary 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


force of Philistines to arrest and 
punish him for this deed (Judg. 1 5:6— 
8), a maneuver that led to their own 
destruction by the Rock of Etam and at 
Ramath-lehi (vv. 14-17). This led to the 
weakening of the grip that Philistia 
had maintained for so long over the 
Israelites. Even Samson’s folly in reveal- 
ing the secret of his strength to his 
Philistine girlfriend, Delilah, led ulti- 
mately to the death of the flower of 
Philistine leadership in the collapse of 
the temple of Dagon. “So the dead 
whom he killed at his death were more 
than those whom he killed in his life” 
(Judg. 16:30, nasb). 

How could Samson’s marriage be “from 
the Lord,” as Judges 14:4 says, if it was 
wrong to marry unbelievers? 

Judges 14:3 makes it plain that Sam- 
son was doing the wrong thing by mar- 
rying the Philistine woman from Tim- 
nah, for his parents remonstrated with 
him about marrying out of the faith. 
Yet the headstrong young man in- 
sisted, “Get her for me, for she looks 
good to me.” Then v.4, indicating how 
God was intending to use Samson as an 
aggressive champion against the Phil- 
istines in the years to come, says, “How- 
ever, his father and mother did not 
know that it was of the Lord, for He 
was seeking an occasion against the 
Philistines.” 

It would be a mistake to conclude 
from this statement that God was 
pleased with Samson’s violation of the 
Mosaic Law, which strictly forbade 
mixed marriages of this sort. But it 
does mean that God intended to use 
Samson as a champion in the deliver- 
ance of his people from the galling 
tyranny of the ungodly Philistines. 
Since up until that time Samson had 
enjoyed friendly relations with them, 
he was not likely to do anything to lib- 


erate Israel from the yoke of its hea- 
then overlords. He needed to have a 
falling out with them before he would 
enter on his career as a champion for 
his country. The aftermath of this un- 
happy marriage, which was never real- 
ly consummated, brought about the 
right conditions for Samson to raise a 
standard against Philistia. 

How could Samson catch three hundred 
foxes for his prank at Timnah? 

Judges 15 relates how Samson 
sought vengeance against the Philistine 
town of Timnah after his bride had 
been given to some other man. Verse 4 
states that “Samson went and caught 
three hundred foxes, and took torches, 
and turned [the foxes] tail to tail, and 
put one torch in the middle between 
two tails.” Then he lit the torches and 
let them run loose into the standing 
grain of the Timnite farmers so that 
they might lose their entire crop. As to 
the methods Samson may have used to 
capture so many foxes, when most 
people find it difficult enough to hunt 
down even one of them, we find no 
information at all in the text. Whether 
his superhuman strength was matched 
by a superhuman agility that enabled 
him to outrun them as they tried to 
escape, we cannot be sure. Or else he 
may have devised a set of unusually en- 
ticing traps and imprisoned them in 
cages until he had gathered a sufficient 
number for his purpose. Presumably 
he used a pair of thick leather gloves as 
protection against their sharp teeth. 
However he managed it, he was cer- 
tainly in a class by himself. But any 
warrior who could slay a thousand 
armed soldiers with the jawbone of an 
ass as his only weapon (v. 15) could 
surely take care of a mere three hun- 
dred foxes without too much difficulty. 


166 


Ruth 


Is not the transaction between Boaz and 
the kinsman in Ruth 4:3-8 contrary to the 
stipulations in Deuteronomy 25:5-10? 
And is not levirate marriage at variance 
with the law against incest in Leviticus 
18:16? 

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 provides that 
a childless widow is to be taken over by 
a surviving brother of her deceased 
husband to be his wife and to bear a 
son (if biologically possible) who will be 
legally accounted as the son and heir of 
the deceased brother. This means that 
the dead man’s name will be carried on 
by the son whom his brother has begot- 
ten so that the dead man’s line does not 
become extinct. But vv.7-8 allow such 
a surviving brother to refuse the role 
of substitute husband if he so insists. If 
he should choose to do so, however, 
the widow may lodge a complaint 
against him before the authorities; and 
he may then be publicly disgraced. 
That is to say, the widow may publicly 
untie and remove his sandal and spit in 
his face, saying, “Thus it is done to the 
man who does not build up his 
brother’s house” (v.9). Verse 10 goes 
on to say that he shall be known from 
then on as “The house of him whose 
sandal is removed” (nasb). 

As we compare this provision, with 
its concern for the perpetuation of the 
memory and family line of the de- 
ceased, with the negotiations between 
Boaz and the unnamed nearer kins- 


man in Ruth 4:3-8, we note the follow- 
ing additional features. 

1. If there is no surviving brother in 
the immediate family (for Chilion 
had also died, as well as Ruth’s hus- 
band, Mahlon), then the levirate 
obligation attached to the nearest 
surviving male cousin. 

2. Along with the obligation to serve 
as a proxy for the deceased in the 
marriage bed, there was the related 
obligation to buy back any landed 
property of the deceased that was 
about to be sold or forfeited under 
foreclosure proceedings. (While 
this was not actually mentioned in 
connection with the ordinance of 
the levir in Deut. 25, it is specified 
in Lev. 25:25: “If a fellow country- 
man of yours becomes so poor he 
has to sell part of his property, then 
his nearest kinsman is to come and 
buy back what his relative has sold” 
[nasb]). 

3. In the case of a non-Israelite widow 
like Ruth the Moabitess, it might be 
considered a little more justifiable 
to refuse to perform the duty of a 
surrogate husband (levir) than oth- 
erwise, since a taint attached to the 
descendants of a Moabite. Deuter- 
onomy 23:3 provided: “No Am- 
monite or Moabite shall enter the 
assembly of the Lord: none of 
their descendants, even to the tenth 
generation, shall ever enter the as- 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


sembly of the Lord” (nasb). Wheth- 
er this applied to a Moabite woman 
married to a Hebrew as much as it 
would to a Moabite male convert to 
faith in the Lord is an arguable 
question. But at least this possibility 
raised a doubt that was apparently 
perceived as being legitimate. 

4. Whether for this reason, or 
whether Ruth herself had no desire 
to humiliate the kinsman ( gd’el ) 
when she had really set her heart on 
Boaz, the kinsman himself was 
permitted to remove his own san- 
dal; and he was even spared the 
humiliation of having her spit in his 
face. 

These four special features can 
hardly be regarded as contradictory to 
the general law of the levirate in 
Deuteronomy 25. The basic rules there 
for a formal rejection of the duty to the 
widow and also for a public acceptance 
of that responsibility were carried out 
by both men. Ruth’s failure to carry 


out an active role in accusing and 
shaming the other go el amounted to 
the voluntary surrender of her right to 
perform this ceremony, in view of the 
fact that the essential purpose of the 
levirate ordinance was about to be 
achieved in a far more desirable and 
acceptable fashion through her kind 
benefactor, Boaz himself. 

As for the law against incest with a 
brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16), this obvi- 
ously did not apply to a situation where 
the surviving brother took the childless 
widow into his home and undertook to 
act as his brother’s proxy. If he had 
attempted to marry his sister-in-law 
under any other condition (as, for 
example, Herod the Tetrarch, who 
seduced his brother Philip’s wife, 
Herodias, from him), that would have 
been a clear case of incest, which was a 
capital crime. Or if Ruth had borne a 
son to Mahlon, that would have made 
her ineligible to any surviving brother 
of his, or perhaps even to a first cousin 
(which Boaz apparently was not). 


168 


1 Samuel 


How could Bethshemesh have con 
tained over 50,000 men in Samuel’s day 
(1 Sam. 6:19)? Why was such an extreme 
judgment visited on them? 

It is quite true that 50,000 men 
would seem to have been far in excess 
of the normal population of a commu- 
nity like Bethshemesh in the eleventh 
century b.c. But there is very strong 
evidence to indicate that the original 
text of 1 Samuel 6:19 read a much 
lower number. That is to say, nowhere 
else is a figure like 50,070 written in 
this fashion according to the grammar 
of biblical Hebrew. Normally the word- 
ing would have been either sib'im ’is 
wah a missim ’elep ’is (lit., “seventy man 
and fifty thousand man”) or else in the 
descending order — which was far 
more usual — h a missim ’elep ’is w a sib’im 
’is (“fifty thousand man and seventy 
man”). The fact that neither of these 
customary word orders was followed in 
the received Hebrew text of this pas- 
sage gives rise to a very justified suspi- 
cion that the text was inadvertently 
garbled in the course of transmission. 
(Textual errors are demonstrable for 
1 Samuel more frequently than for al- 
most any other book in the Old Tes- 
tament.) 

While it is true that the Septuagint 
already found this same reading in its 
Hebrew Vorlage (hebdomekonta andras 
kai pentekonta chiliadas andron, “seventy 
men and fifty thousands of men”), it is 
highly significant that even in the late 


first century A. d., Josephus ( Antiquities 
6.1.4) refers to the loss of life at 
Bethshemesh as only seventy, with no 
mention whatever of the “fifty 
thousand.” There are also a few He- 
brew manuscripts that entirely omit 
“fifty thousand man.” Hence it is not 
necessary to defend this huge number 
as part of the text of the original, iner- 
rant manuscript of 1 Samuel. Nor is it 
likely that more than seventy men 
would have become involved in the 
sacrilege of removing the golden pro- 
pitiatory (kjv, “mercy seat”) from the 
ark of the covenant in order to see 
what was inside. It is hardly conceiv- 
able that fifty thousand persons would 
have filed by the opened ark in order 
to peer into its interior and satisfy 
themselves that it contained only the 
two tablets of the Decalogue (cf. 1 
Kings 8:9). Therefore such an enor- 
mous loss of life is almost impossible to 
account for. Yet for the seventy who 
were involved in this sacrilege, they 
showed such an impious attitude to- 
ward the God who had invested this 
symbol of His presence with the most 
solemn of sanctions that it is hardly to 
be wondered at that they forfeited 
their lives in a sudden and catastrophic 
way — somewhat as Uzzah in the time 
of David, when he merely touched the 
exterior of the ark, to steady it in the 
lurching wagon (2 Sam. 6:6-8). 

Why did God condemn the Israelites’ 
request for a king (1 Sam. 8:7-9) after He 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


had laid down rules for future kings of 
Israel to follow (Deut. 17:14-20)? 

There can be no doubt that God’s 
plan for Israel included a king, a spe- 
cially chosen dynasty from the tribe 
of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and that in an- 
ticipation of that event He laid down 
certain basic guidelines for such a 
theocratic king to follow (especially 
the avoidance of multiplying riches, 
horses, or wives), as recorded in Deu- 
teronomy 17. But this furnishes no 
problem at all in regard to the estab- 
lishment of a monarchic form of gov- 
ernment for Israel in the latter days of 
Samuel’s career. After his own two 
sons, Joel and Abijah, had proved to be 
unworthy and incompetent for leader- 
ship, the Israelite people requested 
Samuel to choose out and anoint for 
office a ruler over them who should 
serve as a permanent king with full au- 
thority as a monarch (1 Sam. 8:5). 

In view of the fluctuating fortunes 
of Israel under the long succession of 
“judges” who had followed after the 
death of Joshua, it was not altogether 
surprising for the people to look to 
such a solution for their ineffectiveness 
and disunity as a nation. But the rea- 
son why their request displeased the 
Lord was that it was based on the as- 
sumption that they should follow their 
pagan neighbors in their form of gov- 
ernment. Their motive was to conform 
to the world about them rather than to 
abide by the holy and perfect constitu- 
tion that God had given them under 
Moses in the form of the Pentateuchal 
code. There was a definite sense in 
which they were setting aside the laws 
of God as inadequate for their needs 
and falling in step with the idolatrous 
heathen. They expressed their desire 
to Samuel thus: “Now appoint a king 
for us to judge us like all the nations” 
(nasb). They had forgotten that God 
had called them out of the world, not 
to conform to the world, but to walk in 
covenant fellowship with Yahweh as a 


testimony of godliness before all the 
pagan world. 

Nevertheless, it is also clear that the 
Lord had in mind from the very be- 
ginning a monarchic form of govern- 
ment for His people. Even to Abraham 
He had promised, “I will make nations 
of you, and kings shall come from you” 
(Gen. 17:6, nasb). He had also decreed 
that the chosen line of royalty should 
come from the tribe of Judah: “The 
scepter shall not depart from Judah, 
nor the ruler’s staff from between his 
feet, until Shiloh comes” (Gen. 49:10, 
nasb) (i.e., until the coming of the 
Messiah, who would Himself be a de- 
scendant of the Judean royal line). 

So it came about that when Samuel’s 
contemporaries came clamoring for a 
king, God granted them their request, 
even though He rebuked them for 
their worldly motive in making it. He 
also warned them that the greater 
unity and efficiency of government 
they might achieve under a monarchy 
would be offset by the loss of their 
liberties under the oppressive and de- 
manding rule of an autocratic king. 
Because of his supreme and concen- 
trated power, he would not be as ac- 
countable to the personal and civic 
rights of his people in the same way the 
Judges had been; so the nation would 
have reason to regret their choice. 
Rather than being governed by the 
laws of God, they would fall under the 
autocratic rule of a single man and be- 
come subject to heavy taxation, corvee 
labor, military draft, confiscation of 
property, and all the rest (1 Sam. 
8:11-18). 

In the sequel, God first chose out for 
them an able and gifted ruler in the 
person of King Saul, but one who was 
basically carnal, wilfully disobedient, 
insanely jealous, and bloodthirsty in 
the later years of his reign. The pur- 
pose of Saul’s reign was to prepare Is- 
rael to appreciate all the more the 
reign of a true man of God, David son 
of Jesse, who came *rom the tribe of 


170 


1 SAMUEL 


Judah, and who was determined to 
serve as a faithful theocratic ruler and 
an obedient servant of Yahweh. 

Do not the Scriptures give contradictory 
accounts of how Saul was anointed king 
over Israel (cf. 1 Sam. 9;10;12)? 

There is actually only one account to 
be found in the scriptural record con- 
cerning the anointing of Saul to be 
king over Israel. That is found in 10:1, 
where we read that at the border of 
Samuel’s city (presumably Ramah in 
the territory of Zuph [9:5]) Samuel 
privately anointed Saul, saying, “Has 
not the Lord anointed you a ruler over 
His inheritance?” (nasb). Therefore 
we must recognize that since there was 
only one account of the actual anoint- 
ing ceremony itself, there could not 
possibly be any contradictory accounts 
of it. 

What we are told in 1 Samuel 
10:17-24 is that at a national assembly 
summoned by Samuel to Mizpah, 
there was a solemn casting of lots con- 
ducted with a view to finding out 
which man of Israel the Lord Himself 
had chosen to be king. The lot finally 
fell on Saul, who was modestly hiding 
himself from sight by lurking behind 
the baggage near the place of assem- 
bly. When searchers discovered him 
there and brought him out before the 
entire congregation, Samuel publicly 
acknowledged him, saying, “Do you 
see him whom the Lord has chosen? 
Surely there is no one like him among 
all the people” (v.24, nasb). Then all 
the multitude acclaimed him, saying, 
“Long live the king!” Yet there is not a 
word said here about a ceremonial 
anointing. 

A still further confirmation by the 
military leadership of the nation came 
after Saul’s successful lifting of the 
siege of Jabesh-gilead and his routing 
of the Ammonite besiegers themselves. 
First Samuel 11:15 tells us: “So all the 
people went to Gilgal, and there they 


made Saul king before the Lord in Gil- 
gal. There they also offered sacrifices 
of peace offerings before the Lord; 
and there Saul and all the men of Is- 
rael rejoiced greatly” (nasb). But we 
are given no indication whatever that 
he was anointed at that time; there is 
no mention of a crowning ceremony 
either. It simply involved an enthusias- 
tic reaffirmation of his royal authority 
and glory, in line with the previous ap- 
pointment made at Mizpah. First 
Samuel 12 simply continues the narra- 
tive of the confirmation ceremony at 
Gilgal, with Samuel giving his farewell 
address before the people and sol- 
emnly warning all the nation as well as 
their new ruler that the favor and pro- 
tection of the Lord Yahweh would be 
conditioned on their faithful adher- 
ence to His holy law and their mainte- 
nance of a consistent testimony of god- 
liness before the idol-worshiping world 
(vv. 14-15). He closed with a stern 
warning in v.25: “But if you still do 
wickedly, both you and your king shall 
be swept away”(NASB). 

This record of the initial anointing 
of Saul by God’s prophet, his sub- 
sequent acknowledgment by the na- 
tion, and his later vindication as leader 
by his first victory in war against the 
heathen all form a perfectly consistent 
and believable line of development as 
the very first king of Israel comes into 
office and the old system of intermit- 
tent “judges” (or charismatic rulers) 
comes to a close. 

What is the correct number in I Samuel 
13:1? 

First Samuel 13:1 as preserved in the 
Masoretic or Received Text has lost the 
number that must have been included 
in the original manuscript. The Maso- 
retic text literally says, “Saul was a 
son of . . . years when he became king, 
and he had ruled for two years in Is- 
rael, when [lit., ‘and’] Saul chose out 
for himself three thousand from Is- 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


rael.” All we can say for certain is that 
he must have been more than twenty 
years old, since the number nineteen or 
less would have required the word 
for “years” to be put in the plural 
(sanim). Because the singular sanah is 
used here, we can tell that a numeral of 
twenty or more must have preceded it 
(cf. E. Kautzsch, ed., Gesenius’ Hebrew 
Grammar [Oxford: Clarendon, 1910], 
#134.2 and Rem. 1). (This peculiar 
rule in the syntax of numerals is fol- 
lowed in Arabic also.) 

“Saul reigned one year” (kjv) is not 
justifiable, for the Hebrew text does not 
say “reigned” but “Saul was son of a 
year when he became king” (b ,J molko). 
The translation “Saul was [forty ] years 
when he began to reign” (asv) is sheer 
conjecture, as its marginal note ac- 
knowledges. 

The nasb follows the conjectural 
“forty” but then adds a second conjec- 
ture: “And he reigned thirty - two years 
over Israel.” This is quite unnecessary 
if the connection between the end of 
v.l and the beginning of v.2 is handled 
in the way suggested above, rsv does 
no conjecturing at all but leaves the 
gaps where they are in the Masoretic 
text: “Saul was . . . years old when he 
began to reign; and he reigned . . . and 
two years over Israel.” Jerusalem Bible 
leaves out v.l altogether but gives a 
baldly literal rendering of the Maso- 
retic text in a marginal note. 

The niv has “[thirty]” for the first 
number and “[forty-]two” for the sec- 
ond. In a footnote it refers the reader 
to Acts 13:21, which reads: “Then 
the people asked for a king, and he 
gave them Saul son of Kish, . . . who 
ruled forty years.” But if Saul ruled 
only forty years in all, as Acts 13:21 
says, it is hard to see how he could be 
said in 1 Samuel 13:1 to have ruled 
forty-two years. Yet as indicated above, 
there is no need to amend the second 
number at all. Simply render it thus: 
“And he had ruled two years over Is- 
rael when he chose out for himself 


three thousand from Israel.” This 
serves as an appropriate introduction 
to the episode of Jonathan’s remark- 
able exploit at Michmash. 

How could the Philistines have used 
30,000 chariots in a place like Michmash 
(1 Sam. 13:5)? 

Michmash overlooks a fairly exten- 
sive valley, and it is not inconceivable 
that 30,000 chariots could have been 
deployed in its vicinity. But the prob- 
lem lies in the magnitude of the chariot 
force itself. Delitzsch (Keil and De- 
litzsch, Samuel, pp. 126-27) points out 
in his commentary on this verse that 
the listing of a mere 6000 horsemen in 
this Philistine army makes it almost 
conclusive that the actual number of 
chariots was considerably smaller. 
That is to say, everywhere else in the 
Old Testament where an army inclu- 
sive of both cavalry and chariotry 
comes on the scene, the number of the 
cavalry exceeds that of the chariots (cf. 
2 Sam. 10:18; 1 Kings 10:26; 2 Chron. 
12:3, etc.). Furthermore, such a large 
number of chariots in a single army 
has never been recorded in the annals 
of any ancient power, not even of the 
Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Chal- 
deans, or the Persians. It is most un- 
likely, therefore, that a third-rate little 
pentarchy like Philistia could have 
fielded the largest chariot force in all 
human history. Delitzsch suggests: 
“The number is therefore certainly 
corrupt, and we must either read 3000 
[s!'lose-t ’"la-pim] instead of [flssim 
’ele-p] according to the Syriac [Peshitto] 
and the Arabic, or else simply 1000; 
and in the latter case the origin of the 
number thirty might be attributed to 
the fact, that through the oversight of a 
copyist the [lamed] of the word [Yisrael] 
was written twice [dittography ! ], and 
consequently the second [lamed] was 
taken for the numeral thirty [since 
lamed with a dot over it was the cipher 
for ‘thirty’].” 


172 


1 SAMUEL 


In response to Delitzsch’s sugges- 
tion, it is open to question which sys- 
tem of numerical notation was used by 
the Hebrew scribes prior to the third 
century b.c. The Septuagint already 
had the same reading as the Masoretic 
text ( triakonta chiliades harmaton), and it 
probably was translated in the latter 
part of that century. Much more likely, 
therefore, is the possibility that “3000” 
was the original number recorded in 
the earliest text of 1 Samuel 13:5 and 
that somehow in the course of later 
textual transmission the notation for 
“3000” was miscopied as “30,000.” The 
accurate preservation of statistics and 
of the spelling of proper names is 
notoriously difficult in manuscript 
transmission, and 1 Samuel has more 
than its share of textual errors. But 
the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy 
guarantees only the original manu- 
scripts of Scripture as preserved from 
all error; it does not guarantee abso- 
lute trustworthiness of all copies ever 
made from that original. 

In 1 Samuel 13:13, how could God prom- 
ise Saul an eternal kingdom if he did not 
belong to the tribe of Judah? 

It was after Saul had violated God’s 
law by offering sacrifice on the altar, 
instead of waiting for a priest, that 
Samuel said to him in 1 Samuel 13:13: 
“You have acted foolishly; you have 
not kept the commandment of the 
Lord your God, which He commanded 
you, for now the Lord would have es- 
tablished your kingdom over Israel 
forever.” Does this last clause amount 
to a promise from God? Not really, for 
it simply sets forth what might have 
been if Saul had kept faith with God. 
He and his descendants would have 
occupied the throne of Israel on a 
permanent basis. But Saul failed God, 
both in the matter of the extermina- 
tion of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15) and 
in this episode at Gilgal, where Saul in- 
truded on the prerogatives reserved 


for the priesthood alone. The judg- 
ment on him was rejection and re- 
placement by David, of the tribe of 
Judah. 

It was to Judah that the throne of 
Israel had been promised, back in the 
closing days of Jacob’s career, when he 
was inspired on his deathbed to 
prophesy of the future of all the 
Twelve Tribes. Genesis 49:10 contains 
the promise that “the scepter shall not 
depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s 
staff from between his feet, until 
Shiloh comes” (nasb) — that is, until the 
coming of Jesus the Messiah. The 
throne was reserved for the house of 
David, of the tribe of Judah, and God 
knew very well beforehand that Saul 
would fall away into disobedience and 
apostasy. But 1 Samuel 13:13 simply 
sets forth what Saul had forfeited 
through his willful disobedience, 
namely, the enjoyment of the throne 
of Israel, both for himself and for his 
descendants. 

In 1 Samuel 15:11 God is said to be 
sorry that He had ever set up Saul as king 
over Israel. Does this imply that God did 
not know in advance how poorly Saul 
would perform and that He had made a 
mistake in choosing him in the first place? 
Could this be a mere human interpreta- 
tion of God’s feelings in this matter? (D*) 

Even though God, who knows all 
things, surely knew in advance that 
Saul the son of Kish would utterly fail 
in his duties of kingship during the 
later years of his reign, He neverthe- 
less saw fit to use Saul in his earlier 
years to deliver Israel from its pagan 
foes. Saul proved to be an effective 
leader in coping with the Ammonites, 
the Amalekites, and the Philistines and 
inspiring the Twelve Tribes to new 
courage and pride in their nationhood. 
But God foreknew that Saul would fall 
into disobedience and rebellion and 
that He would have to discard Saul 
completely in favor of David the son of 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


Jesse. In fact, God made it clear 
through Jacob’s deathbed prophecy 
(Gen. 49:8-10) that Judah was to sup- 
ply the permanent royal line for the 
covenant nation of Israel. Saul was of 
the tribe of Benjamin, not Judah (as 
David was); so there could have been 
no doubt as to what God’s choice 
would be. 

Nevertheless, it was a matter of deep 
regret that Saul would disregard the 
instructions God had given him 
through Samuel and that he would 
substitute his own will for the revealed 
will of God. The Lord therefore said to 
Samuel, “I regret that I have made 
Saul king” (using the verb niham, a 
term that implies deep emotion and 
concern about a situation involving 
others). This does not imply that God 
was deceived in His expectations about 
Saul but only that He was deeply trou- 
bled about Saul and the suffering and 
failure that would come on Israel be- 
cause her king had turned away from 
the path of obedience. Yet v.29 uses 
the same verb to state that God does 
not change His mind and adopt some 
plan other than that which He had 
originally conceived: “The Glory of Is- 
rael will not lie or change His mind; 
for He is not a man that He should 
change His mind ” (nasb). This state- 
ment was unquestionably made by the 
prophet Samuel under divine inspira- 
tion and does not represent some falli- 
ble human interpretation, either in 
v.ll or v.29. Two somewhat different 
meanings occur for niham in the one 
and same chapter — a not uncommon 
occurrence in Hebrew words with two 
or more meanings. 

Which name for David’s brother is cor- 
rect, Shammah or Shimea? (D*) 

In 1 Samuel 16:9 the name of Jesse’s 
third son (David’s older brother) is 
given as Shammah (sammah). But in 
1 Chronicles 2:13 it is spelled sim e 'a’ 
(though the Syriac Peshitta reads samo’ 


there as well as in 1 Sam. 16:9). There 
is still another passage (2 Sam. 21:21) 
where the name is given as Shimeah 
(sim e ‘dy). From these data we must 
come to some conclusion as to which 
was the correct and original spelling 
of this man’s name. 

First of all, it is significant that even 
though the ‘ayin (') is missing from 
1 Samuel 16:9, the mem (m) does have a 
mark of doubling (dagesh forte) within 
it ( sammah rather than samah), which 
makes it identical with the adverb for 
“thither” or “there” — and rather un- 
likely as a personal name. But it could 
represent an assimilation with a follow- 
ing consonant such as ‘ayin. It may be 
that in some regions of the Hebrew- 
speaking territory, such as Judah, 
there was a tendency to deemphasize 
or even omit the sound of ‘ayin, espe- 
cially in proper names. Thus we find 
the name of the Moabitess spelled rut 
(Ruth), rather than f'u-Zt (“Friend- 
ship”), which it probably should have 
been. ( Ru-l is a meaningless word with- 
out an 'ayin.) So also, Samuel is ren- 
dered Fmuel (which could only mean 
“The name of God”), whereas according 
to Hannah’s statements in 1 Samuel 
1:20 and 1:27 it should have been 
?mu‘'el (“Heard of God”). We must 
therefore conclude that the spelling in 
1 Chronicles 2:13 (sim e 'd!) is the correct 
one and that the reading in 1 Samuel 
16:9 is a scribal error resulting from a 
regional pronunciation of the name. 

How many sons did Jesse have? First 
Samuel 16:10-11 makes it eight, but 
1 Chronicles 2:13-15 makes it seven. 

First Samuel 16 names only the 
three oldest brothers of David: Eliab 
(v.6), Abinadab (v.8), and Shammah 
(v.9), who is called Shimea in 1 Chroni- 
cles 2:13. Yet it does specify that Jesse 
introduced seven of his sons to Samuel 
(v.10) before he had the youngest, 
David, called home from the field 
(v.ll). First Chronicles 2:14 gives the 


174 


1 SAMUEL 


names of the other three as Nethanel, 
Raddai, and Ozem, and specifies that 
David was the seventh. What became 
of the other son, unnamed in 1 Samuel 
16 and totally ignored in 1 Chron- 
icles 2? Delitzsch (Keil and Delitzsch, 
Chronicles, p.62) suggests that he might 
have died without posterity; therefore 
his name was not preserved as late 
as the period when Chronicles was 
composed. It may well have been that 
he died of illness or accident while still 
a young man, prior to marriage. Since 
he produced no descendants and con- 
tributed no exploits back in David’s 
time, there was no special reason for 
retaining him in the later enumeration 
of Jesse’s sons. 

The writer of this article had an 
older brother who died quite young, 
which would bring up the count of the 
children to four. Yet after the death of 
that earlier son, the three surviving 
children always spoke of themselves as 
a family of three siblings. Perhaps a 
similar event happened in Jesse’s fam- 
ily as well. The full number of his sons 
was eight, but only seven survived and 
played a role during David’s career. 
(First Chron. 2:16 adds that there were 
two daughters as well, Zeruiah and 
Abigail. After they were married, their 
sons played an important role as well 
in the service of their uncle David.) 

In 1 Samuel 16:19-21 Saul recognizes 
David as the son of Jesse, but in 17:58 Saul 
is said to have asked David, “Whose son art 
thou?” How can the two be reconciled? (D*) 

It is true that Saul had already been 
introduced to David ( 1 Sam. 16:18) as 
“a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is 
a skillful musician, a mighty man of 
valor, a warrior, one prudent in 
speech, and a handsome man” (nasb). 
But it should be noted also that up 
until the contest with Goliath, David 
had shown to King Saul only his artistic 
side; and then David had been permit- 
ted to return home to Bethlehem. It is 


altogether true to life for Saul to see 
David in an entirely new light and to 
show a keen interest in his back- 
ground. Apparently General Abner 
had no previous acquaintance with 
David except as a harp player and so 
was not even aware of Jesse’s name 
(17:55). Abner had not been involved 
in David’s earlier introduction to the 
palace as a soothing musician (16:18); 
rather, one of Saul’s “young men” (that 
is, a retainer of the royal bodyguard) 
had mentioned Jesse’s name to Saul. 

Saul’s rekindled interest, however, 
went far beyond the name of David’s 
father — even though that was his 
lead-off question. It is quite apparent 
that Saul wanted to know whether 
there were any more at home like him; 
this was in line with his standard policy 
set forth in 1 Samuel 14:52: “When 
Saul saw any mighty man or any val- 
iant man, he attached him to his staff” 
(nasb). That is to say, Saul was intent 
on building up a first-class bodyguard 
of champion fighters, and he saw in 
David a promising lead to obtaining 
more soldiers like him. From 18:1 we 
are informed that David then carried 
on a fairly extensive conversation with 
Saul, going far beyond the giving of his 
own father’s name. Thus we find that 
when we view the two episodes in their 
own context and situation, they turn 
out to be very true to life; and there is 
no real contradiction between them. 

First Samuel contains several instances 
of lying and deceit on the part of God’s 
chosen servant David and of Samuel the 
prophet (1 Sam. 16; 20; 21; 27). Did the 
Lord really condone lying and deceit as 
means to a good end? (D*) 

In dealing with this difficult ques- 
tion, we must keep the following fac- 
tors in view. 

1. Even though Scripture records the 

dishonesty of men, this does not 

necessarily mean that it approves or 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


condones such a sin. The same is 
true of other types of sin committed 
by religious leaders. 

2. The duty to tell only what is true 
does not necessarily carry with it the 
obligation to tell the whole truth 
about the matter, especially if lives 
would be endangered or lost as a 
result of this information, or if di- 
vulging all the details would violate 
a trust of secrecy or amount to a 
betrayal of another’s confidence. 

3. The mere recording of an episode 
involving subterfuge or deception 
does not imply that the person re- 
sorting to it was acting responsibly 
on the highest level of faith or fur- 
nishing a valid example of conduct 
that believers might justifiably fol- 
low today. 

With these factors in mind, we may 
profitably examine each of the epi- 
sodes alluded to in the question. 

First Samuel 16:2 relates Samuel’s 
apprehension at carrying out the 
Lord’s assignment to anoint a new king 
down in Bethlehem. “But Samuel said, 
‘How can I go? When Saul hears of it, 
he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, 
‘Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have 
come to sacrifice to the Lord’” (nasb). 
Verse 5 relates that Samuel said to 
Jesse and his family, “I have come to 
sacrifice to the Lord” (nasb). Of course 
this was in fact true, for he had fol- 
lowed God’s instructions in this matter. 
He had actually taken along a heifer to 
offer on the altar in Bethlehem, even 
though he really had a further pur- 
pose in mind. In this entire transaction 
he was carrying out the instructions of 
God Himself. It is quite clear that the 
Lord had approved a policy of with- 
holding information from King Saul 
that would have moved him to violence 
or bloodshed had he known of it in 
advance. If Samuel had divulged his 
full intention (beyond the performing 
of a religious sacrifice in Bethlehem), 
Saul would have killed not only Samuel 


himself but also David and his entire 
family. In this case then, it would have 
been altogether wrong and extremely 
harmful for Samuel to have told the 
entire truth or revealed his entire pur- 
pose. There is a clear distinction be- 
tween resorting to actual deceit and to 
withholding information that would 
result in great harm and even failure 
to obey carrying out the will of 
God — in this case the anointing of 
young David to be king over Israel. In 
other words, Samuel was entirely 
within the will of God when he told 
only part of the truth rather than the 
whole truth. 

First Samuel 20 relates how Jona- 
than handled the difficult matter 
of protecting the life of his dearest 
friend, David, in a situation where he 
knew (1) that God had chosen David to 
be the next king of Israel and (2) that 
his own father, Saul, was likely to at- 
tempt to prevent this purpose of God 
by having David killed, as a dangerous 
rival to the dynastic rights of the house 
of Saul. His loyalty to his father repre- 
sented a definite conflict with his duty 
to the Lord Himself and to His chosen 
servant, David, whom he personally 
loved far more than himself or his in- 
sanely jealous and bloodthirsty father. 
Under these peculiar circumstances, 
Jonathan could pursue no other 
course than he did. That is to say, he 
agreed with David on a test of Saul’s 
true intentions (which were difficult to 
determine, in view of his unbalanced 
mentality and his occasional change of 
mind; cf. 1 Sam. 19:6). The only way 
he could find out the king’s real pur- 
pose was to present him with a situa- 
tion to react to, namely David’s failure 
to show up at the new moon feast at 
Saul’s palace (which David had pre- 
viously attended without fail, as a son- 
in-law belonging to the royal family). 
There had to be some plausible excuse 
arranged for his absence; so this was 
furnished by David’s alleged summons 
to Bethlehem in order to join with the 


176 


1 SAMUEL 


rest of his family in celebrating the new 
moon festival in the household of 
Jesse. 

Unlike the previous example ( 1 Sam. 
16:2), there seems to have been no 
such summons from David’s oldest 
brother, Eliab, even though such an 
invitation would have been quite rea- 
sonable and justified on the part of the 
family in Bethlehem. Yet as the story 
unfolds, it is quite clear that David 
never went to Bethlehem after he 
found out that Saul was bent on having 
him killed. It is highly doubtful 
whether David would have gone home 
even if he had learned from Jonathan 
that Saul had relented in his hostility; 
David probably would have made his 
way back to the palace, instead. We can 
only conclude that this appointment to 
join the family in Bethlehem was a 
sheer concoction on David’s part. And 
even though Jonathan accurately re- 
peated what David had said to him by 
way of a request to be excused from 
attending the king’s table, Jonathan, of 
course, knew that it was a mere subter- 
fuge. And yet we can hardly fault 
Jonathan in this, for had he told his 
father all that he knew about the mat- 
ter and the full content of his conversa- 
tion with David, he would have been 
guilty of the basest betrayal of his trust- 

I ing friend, who was also the chosen 
king of Israel according to Yahweh’s 
own decision. David’s blood would 
have been on Jonathan’s head. As it 
was, he nearly lost his own life as he 
tried to defend David’s rights before 
his father’s fury; and Jonathan had to 
beat a hasty retreat when Saul at- 
tempted to pin him against the wall 
with his spear (1 Sam. 20:33). 

First Samuel 21 records the sorry 
choice David made in fleeing to the 
town of Nob, where the high priest, 
Ahimelech, served at the tabernacle of 
the Lord. David should never had 
brought that community into such ter- 
rible danger from the wrath of the 
king, and his brief visit there brought 


on him the guilt of their subsequent 
massacre at the hands of Saul’s agents, 
under the leadership of the despicable 
Doeg (22:18-19). In fairness to David, 
it may well be that he did not foresee 
the extreme to which Saul would go in 
slaughtering all those innocent priests. 
But after the atrocity was accom- 
plished and Abiathar brought him the 
sorrowful tidings, David had to ac- 
knowledge how inexcusably guilty he 
was when he lied to Ahimelech about 
his mission at Nob and gave the priest 
no opportunity to choose whether he 
was willing to court death for David’s 
sake. 

In this entire episode David involved 
himself in the greatest guilt — as he 
himself recognized afterward. “Then 
David said to Abiathar, ‘I knew on that 
day, when Doeg the Edomite was 
there, that he would surely tell Saul. I 
have brought about the death of every 
person in your father’s household’” 
(1 Sam. 22:22, nasb). But as for the 
Lord’s involvement in this entire 
tragedy, there is really no indication 
whatever that He condoned David’s 
deception toward Ahimelech. The 
only mitigation of David’s guilt was 
that he really had not thought ahead 
about what harm he was going to cause 
to others when he sought refuge at 
Nob. But, in retrospect, David should 
have turned in some other direction 
when he fled from Saul. If David had 
really looked to the Lord for guidance, 
he might have found safety at Engedi 
or some other remote wilderness to 
which he later resorted. He certainly 
was out of the will of God when he lied 
his way into Nob and made off with the 
sword of Goliath. 

It is interesting to notice that Jesus 
later used David’s example at Nob, 
where he and his followers partook of 
the week-old showbread when they 
were starving, even though that bread 
was intended for the priests alone 
(Matt. 12:3-4). Our Lord seems to 
imply that under those unusual cir- 


177 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


cumstances, David was justified in 
doing that, since the preservation of 
human life was even more important 
than strict observance of the ritual law. 
But even so, David certainly suffered 
the deepest humiliation when he al- 
lowed panic to lead him to King Achish 
at Gath, instead of waiting on the 
Lord for His guidance. David only suc- 
ceeded in putting his life into even 
greater danger when he sought refuge 
with the ungodly Philistines. He only 
escaped from that peril by pretending 
to be hopelessly demented while he was 
in the palace of Achish, with the result 
that they utterly despised him and 
drove him from their borders like 
some wild animal (1 Sam. 21:13-15). 

In 1 Samuel 27:8-12 we read of a 
long-continued deception David prac- 
ticed toward King Achish. After he 
had been allowed to set up his head- 
quarters in Ziklag (as a vassal or ally of 
Achish of Gath), David supported 
himself and his six hundred followers 
by raiding the tribesmen of the Negeb 
(the Geshurites, Girzites, and Amale- 
kites) and slaughtering the entire 
population of every community that he 
invaded. The purpose of this bloody 
practice was to keep any survivors 
from informing the Philistines at Gath 
that David was not really attacking the 
Jerahmeelites and Judeans, as he 
claimed he was doing, but was actually 
raiding non-Israelite communities that 
were on good terms with the Philistines 
(vv.l 1-12). He manged to keep Achish 
from ever finding out the truth about 
his activities and made him believe that 
he had become an enemy of his own 
countrymen by preying on their vil- 
lages and carrying off their livestock. 

After this review of those sorry epi- 
sodes in the early career of David, we 
must recognize that God did not favor 
and protect the son of Jesse on account 
of his occasional deceptions or his oc- 
casional hardness toward pagan ene- 
mies (like the Ammonites in 2 Sam. 


12:31). On the contrary, God put 
David through an arduous educative 
process of suffering, uncertainty, and 
danger, because He found in him an 
instrument well suited to deliver his 
nation from their heathen foes and to 
establish a strong and stable govern- 
ment in fulfillment of His ancient 
promise to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21). 
It was not because of his virtue and his 
good deeds that God chose David for 
his role of leadership but because of 
his great faith. Despite the episodes 
where he failed to trust the Lord com- 
pletely or to seek His guidance as care- 
fully as he should have, David gave his 
heart to the Lord sincerely and made it 
his chief purpose and desire to do the 
will of God and glorify His name. 

Who killed Goliath — David or Elhanan? 

First Samuel 17:50 states that David 
cut off Goliath’s head with the giant’s 
own sword, after he had first felled 
him with a sling and a stone. Because 
of this amazing victory over the Philis- 
tine, David became the foremost 
battle-champion among the Israelite 
troops, even though he was still a mere 
teenager. But 2 Samuel 21:19 in the 
Hebrew Masoretic text states that 
“Elhanan the son of Yaare-oregim the 
Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, 
the shaft of whose spear was like a 
weaver’s beam.” As this verse stands in 
the Masoretic text, it certainly con- 
tradicts 1 Samuel 17. But fortunately 
we have a parallel passage in 1 Chroni- 
cles 20:5, which words the episode this 
way: “And Elhanan the son of Jair 
slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the 
Gittite.” It is quite apparent that this 
was the true reading, not only for 
the Chronicles passage but also for 
2 Samuel 21:19. 

The earlier manuscript from which 
the copyist was reading must have 
been blurred or damaged at this par- 
ticular verse, and hence he made two 


178 


1 SAMUEL 


or three mistakes. What apparently 
happened was the following: 

1. The sign of the direct object, which 
in Chronicles comes just before 
“Lahmi,” was ’-(; the copyist mis- 
took it for b-t or b-y-t (“Beth”) and 
thus got Bet hal-Lahmi (“the Beth- 
lehemite”) out of it. 

2. He misread the word for “brother” 
(-h) as the sign of the direct object 
(’-() right before g-l-y-t (“Goliath”). 
Thus he made “Goliath” the object 
of “killed” ( wayyak ), instead of the 
“brother” of Goliath (as the Chron. 
passage does). 

3. The copyist misplaced the word for 
“weavers” (’- r-g-ym ) so as to put it 
right after “Elhanan” as his pa- 
tronymic ( ben Y-‘-r-y’-r--g-ym, or ben 
ya' n rey ’oY-gim — “the son of the 
forests of weavers” — a most un- 
likely name for anyone’s father!). In 
Chronicles the ’ or e gim (“weavers”) 
comes right after rrfnor (“a beam 
of”) — thus making perfectly good 
sense. 

In other words, the 2 Samuel 21 pas- 
sage is a perfectly traceable corruption 
of the original wording, which fortu- 
nately has been correctly preserved in 
1 Chronicles 20:5. 

First Samuel 18:10 says that an evil spirit 
from God came on King Saul. How can 
this be explained if only good comes 
from God? (D*) 

It is not quite accurate to say that 
only good comes from God. While it is 
true that God’s original creation was 
good (Gen. 1:31) and that God Him- 
self is not tempted by evil, nor does He 
tempt (in the sense of attracting or en- 
ticing) any man to evil (James 1:13), 
nevertheless it remains true that 
genuine goodness in a moral God re- 
quires that a real difference be made 
between good and evil. As the ordainer 


and preserver of the moral order, it is 
absolutely necessary for God to punish 
sin, no matter how much love and 
compassion He may feel toward the 
sinner. 

In Isaiah 45:7 we read, “[I am] the 
One forming light and creating dark- 
ness, causing well-being and creating 
calamity; I am the Lord who does all 
these” (nasb). The word rendered by 
nasb as “calamity” is the Hebrew ra‘, 
which has the basic meaning of “evil” 
(either moral evil or misfortune evil). 
Here it points to the painful, harmful 
consequences that followed the com- 
mission of sin. Notice how James goes 
on to indicate how this process works: 
“But each one is tempted when he is 
carried away and enticed by his own 
lust. Then when lust has conceived, it 
gives birth to sin; and when sin is accom- 
plished, it brings forth death” (James 
1:14-15, nasb). 

In Saul’s case, he had knowingly 
flouted the law of God — first, by per- 
forming priestly sacrifice at the Lord’s 
altar contrary to the divine command 
(1 Sam. 13:12-13), and, second, by 
sparing King Agag and some of the 
cattle of the Amalekites after he had 
been ordered to put them all to death 
(1 Sam. 15:20-23). Moreover in 1 
Samuel 18:8 it is stated that Saul be- 
came insanely jealous of young David 
because of the public praise he had re- 
ceived for his prowess in slaying 
Goliath and the Philistines. By these 
successive acts of rebellion against the 
will and law of God, King Saul left 
himself wide open to satanic influence — 
just as Judas Iscariot did after he had 
determined to betray the Lord Jesus 
(cf. John 13:2). 

Insofar as God has established the 
spiritual laws of cause and effect, it is 
accurate to say that Saul’s disobedience 
cut him off from the guidance and 
communion of the Holy Spirit that he 
had formerly enjoyed and left him a 
prey to a malign spirit of depression 


179 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


and intense jealousy that drove him in- 
creasingly to irrational paranoia. Al- 
though he was doubtless acting as an 
agent of Satan, Saul’s evil bent was by 
the permission and plan of God. We 
must realize that in the last analysis all 
penal consequences for sin come from 
God, as the Author of the moral law 
and the one who always does what is 
right (Gen. 18:25). 

First Samuel 19:23-24 states of King Saul 
that “the spirit of God was upon him also, 
and he went on, and prophesied. . . . And 
he stripped off his clothes also, and pro- 
phesied before Samuel in like manner.” 
Why did he prophesy naked? (D*) 

The passage beginning with v. 19 in- 
dicates that Saul was in pursuit of his 
son-in-law, young David, and that 
David had gotten to Naioth in Ramah. 
Saul was informed that David was 
there with the prophets who had been 
trained for the Lord’s service under 
Samuel. So he sent his agents up to ar- 
rest David and to bring him down in 
chains. 

When the king’s agents got there, 
however, and saw the august figure of 
Samuel himself and his prophetic assis- 
tants all engaged in a joyous praise serv- 
ice before the Lord, they too came 
under the influence of the Holy Spirit. 
Unable to control themselves or carry 
out the business for which they had 
been sent, they could do nothing else 
but surrender to the same emotional 
excitement and join in the songs and 
shouts of adoration before the Lord. 
By that time they felt utterly unable to 
perform their mission, and they had to 
return to Saul empty-handed. 

After the same thing had happened 
to two other teams of soldiers whom 
Saul sent up to Samuel’s group, Saul 
finally resolved to carry out his mission 
himself. Until then he had hung back, 
hoping to avoid confrontation with 
Samuel, with whom he had had a com- 
plete falling out after the episode 


at Gilgal (1 Sam. 15:17-35), where 
Samuel had announced that Saul had 
been rejected by God from the king- 
ship. Saul did not relish the prospect of 
facing that fearsome prophet again, 
but he felt there was no alternative. 

Also, Saul was subject to manic de- 
pression and given to extreme changes 
of mood (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14-23; 18:10- 
1 1; 19:9). As he came near the praise 
service over which Samuel was presid- 
ing, Saul found himself coming under 
the spell of the excitement of the occa- 
sion; and he could not control himself. 
He too began to sing, shout, and dance 
along with the prophets themselves. 
(Somewhat similar cases have been re- 
ported at camp meetings during the 
Great Awakening in America in 1740 
under George Whitefield and in 1800 
at the revival meetings held in Ken- 
tucky.) Such an overpowering sense of 
the presence, power, and glory of God 
came over this wicked king that he re- 
called his earlier revival experience 
near Bethel (1 Sam. 10:5-6, 10), when 
he had first been called to the throne; 
and he succumbed to the same excite- 
ment again. 

Unlike the other worshipers, Saul 
became so carried away with his en- 
thusiasm that he stripped off his 
clothes as he shouted and danced, and 
he finally collapsed exhausted on the 
ground and lay there in a stupor or 
trance the rest of the day and all 
through the night (1 Sam. 19:24). Un- 
doubtedly this humiliation came on 
him as a divine judgment because in 
his heart he was radically opposed to 
the will of God, insofar as it went 
counter to his own ambition. 

What took place in 1 Samuel 28:8-16? 
Did Samuel really appear to Saul? Did 
Saul actually talk with him in the witch’s 
cave? (D*) 

There is little doubt that Satanic 
powers are able to produce illusionary 
images and communicate with the liv- 


180 


1 SAMUEL 


ing by this means. Such “lying wonders” 
(2 Thess. 2:9) are part of the Dev- 
il’s stock in trade. On the other hand, 
it certainly lies within God’s power as 
well to present an appearance for the 
purpose of conveying His message by a 
special revelation. 

The oracle delivered by this shade or 
apparition sounded like an authentic 
message from God, with its an- 
nouncement of doom on the guilty, 
unfaithful king. It even sounded like 
something Samuel himself would have 
said, had he remained alive after the 
massacre of Ahimelech and the priests 
of Nob ( 1 Sam. 22: 1 1 -19). Therefore it 
is entirely possible that this apparition 
was the actual shade of Samuel him- 
self, when he asked, "Why has thou 
disquieted me, to bring me up?” Ap- 
parently Samuel had been directed by 
God to leave his abode in Sheol or 
Hades (where even the saved believers 
awaited the future resurrection of 
Christ, which would bring about their 
transferal to heaven itself) in order to 
deliver this final message to King Saul. 
Conceivably the deceased Samuel 
could have communicated long dis- 
tance through an apparition in 'the 
cave of Endor, but the words “to bring 
me up” make this very doubtful. 

On the other hand, it should be ob- 
served that the witch herself was quite 
startled by this ghostly visitor, as she 
said, “I see a god [Heb. ' e ldhim] coming 
up out of the earth” (v. 13). This clearly 
implies that this authentic appearance 
of the dead (if such it was) was no re- 
sult of her own witchcraft; rather, it 
was an act of God Himself that ter- 
rified her and that she had in no sense 
brought about in her own power. It 
would seem that God chose this par- 
ucular occasion and setting to give His 
final word to the evil king who had 
once served His cause with courage 
and zeal. No scriptural basis for 
spiritism is furnished by this episode, 
nor for necromancy — both of which 
are sternly condemned as abomina- 


dons before the Lord (Deut. 18:9-12; 
cf. Exod. 22:18; Lev. 19:26,31; 20: 
6,27; Jer. 27:9-10). 

First Samuel 31 gives an account of Saul’s 
death that conflicts with another given 
in 2 Samuel 1. How can both be correct? 

First Samuel 31:3-4 informs us that 
Saul was fatally wounded by a Philis- 
tine arrow at the disastrous battle of 
Mount Gilboa. Realizing that he was 
about to die, Saul himself appealed to 
his own armorbearer to thrust his 
sword through his heart and kill him 
immediately — "lest these uncircum- 
cized [Philistines] come and pierce me 
through and make sport of me” (nasb). 
But since the armorbearer could not 
bring himself to take the life of his 
king, Saul took his own sword, fas- 
tened its hilt firmly in the ground, and 
then fell on it in such a way as to end 
his misery right then and there. 

In 2 Samuel 1 we read that a certain 
Amalekite who had served in Saul’s 
bodyguard fled from the battlefield 
and made his way to David’s camp, in 
order to bring him news of Saul’s 
death. According to the account he 
gave to David (vv.6-10), he was sum- 
moned by King Saul to his side while 
he was hopelessly surrounded by the 
triumphant Philistines; and he was or- 
dered by the king to take his life im- 
mediately, in order to end his misery 
from his fatal wounds. The Amalekite 
then complied with his request (v.10): 
“So I stood beside him and killed him, 
because I knew that he could not live 
after he had fallen. And I took the 
crown which was on his head and the 
bracelet which was on his arm, and I 
have brought them here to my lord” 
(nasb). 

This presents obvious discrepancies 
with the account in 1 Samuel 31, but it 
is not presented as being an actual rec- 
ord of what happened during Saul’s 
dying moments; it is only a record of 
what the Amalekite mercenary said 


181 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


had taken place. Coming with Saul’s 
crown and bracelet in hand and pre- 
senting them before the new king of 
Israel, the Amalekite obviously ex- 
pected a handsome reward and high 
preferment in the service of Saul’s suc- 
cessor. In the light of the straightfor- 
ward account in the previous chapter, 
we must conclude that the Amalekite 
was lying in order to gain a cordial wel- 
come from David. But what had actu- 
ally happened was that after Saul had 
killed himself, and the armorbearer 
had followed his lord’s example by tak- 
ing his own life (1 Sam. 31:5), the 
Amalekite happened by at that mo- 
ment, recognized the king’s corpse, 
and quickly stripped off the bracelet 
and crown before the Philistine troops 
discovered it. Capitalizing on his good 
fortune, the Amalekite then escaped 
from the bloody field and made his 
way down to David’s headquarters in 


Ziklag. But his hoped-for reward 
turned out to be a warrant for his 
death; David had him killed on the 
spot, saying: “Your blood is on your 
head, for your mouth has testified 
against you, saying, ‘I have killed the 
Lord’s anointed’” (2 Sam. 1:16; nasb). 
His glib falsehood had brought him 
the very opposite of what he had ex- 
pected, for he failed to foresee that 
David’s high code of honor would lead 
him to make just the response he did. 

It should be added that this partic- 
ular Amalekite came from a different 
Amalekite tribe from that which Saul 
had earlier destroyed at God’s com- 
mand — the tribe over which Agag had 
ruled (1 Sam. 15:7-8). Those Amal- 
ekites lived between Havilah and Shur. 
But there were other Amalekites not 
involved in this campaign, some of 
whom raided David’s settlement at 
Ziklag (1 Sam. 30). 


182 


2 Samuel 


How could David have reigned seven 
and a half years in Hebron if Ish-bosheth, 
his rival, reigned only two years before he 
died? 

In 2 Samuel 5:5 we are told that the 
length of David’s reign in Hebron as 
king of Judah (before he became ac- 
knowledged by the northern tribes as 
king over all Israel) was seven and 
a half years. This is confirmed by 
1 Chronicles 3:4. Yet 2 Samuel 2:10 
reports that David’s rival, Ish-bosheth 
son of Saul, ruled over Israel (under 
Abner’s sponsorship) for only two 
years. But this did not prevent the very 
next verse from affirming that David’s 
rule in Hebron was indeed seven and a 
half years. How could both statements 
be true? On the assumption that the 
two years for Ish-bosheth represented 
the true interval, the Jerusalem Bible 
even amended 1 Chron. 3:4 to read, 
“Hebron, where he reigned for three 
years and six months” [italics mine] — 
even though no similar alteration has 
been made in the other two passages [2 
Sam. 2:11; 5:5], interestingly enough! 

A careful survey of the circum- 
stances surrounding the career of 
Ish-bosheth furnishes a clue for the 
brevity of his reign. After the total col- 
lapse of Israel’s army at the disaster of 
Mount Gilboa, it became necessary for 
Abner and the other fugitives from the 
victorious Philistines to take refuge 
east of the Jordan, leaving the entire 
area of Ephraim and Manasseh to the 


control of the conquerors. Abner must 
have set up his headquarters at 
Mahanaim, where he placed Ish- 
bosheth for safekeeping in the hinter- 
land of the tribe of Gad. It apparently 
took Abner five long years of hard 
fighting to force the Philistines back 
from Beth-shan (where they had dis- 
played the impaled bodies of Saul and 
his sons) all the way up the Valley of 
the Esdraelon, and thus link up the 
northern tribes of Issachar, Naphtali, 
and Asher with Benjamin to the south. 
But until that was accomplished, it was 
premature to celebrate any formal 
coronation of Ish-bosheth as king of 
Israel. 

However, at the end of five years 
Abner had been sufficiently successful 
to call representatives from all Ten 
Tribes to a public coronation cere- 
mony in Mahanaim — which remained 
the provisional capital for the time be- 
ing, safely out of the reach of retalia- 
tory expeditions launched by the Philis- 
tines. Thus it came about that Ish- 
bosheth actually reigned for only two 
years, at the end of which he was assas- 
sinated in bed by two of his army 
commanders, Baanah and Rechab (2 
Sam. 4:5-6), sometime after they had 
heard of Abner’s murder at the hand 
of the treacherous Joab (2 Sam. 3:27). 

David, however, had been crowned 
by the men of Judah at Hebron quite 
soon after the battle of Mount Gilboa; 
and thus he wore the crown for a full 
seven and a half years, even though 


183 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF 

Ish-bosheth had formally begun his 
reign only two years before his death. 

What is the correct number of horsemen 
that David took in his battle over 
Hadadezer, seventeen hundred (2 Sam. 
8:4) or seven thousand (1 Chron. 18:4)? 

In the war against Hadadezer of 
Zobah, David won a significant victory 
near Hamath, capturing many pris- 
oners, listed in 2 Samuel 8:4 as “a 
thousand and seven hundred horse- 
men, and twenty thousand footmen.” 
But in 1 Chronicles 18:4 the number 
taken in this engagement is given as “a 
thousand chariots, and seven thousand 
horsemen, and twenty thousand foot- 
men [i.e., infantry].” There is no ques- 
tion but that these two accounts refer 
to the same episode, and therefore the 
prisoner count should be the same in 
both instances. There has been a scri- 
bal error or two either in Samuel or in 
Chronicles. 

Keil and Delitzsch ( Samuel , p. 360) 
have a most convincing solution, that 
the word for chariotry ( rekeb ) was in- 
advertently omitted by the scribe in 
copying 2 Samuel 8:4, and that the 
second figure, seven thousand (for the 
parasim “cavalrymen”), was necessarily 
reduced to seven hundred from the 
seven thousand he saw in his Vorlage 
for the simple reason that no one 
would write seven thousand after he 
had written one thousand in the re- 
cording of the one and the same fig- 
ure. The omission of rekeb might have 
occurred with an earlier scribe, and the 
reduction of seven thousand to seven 
hundred would have followed by chain 
reaction when the defective copy was 
next copied by a later scribe. But in all 
probability the Chronicles figure is 
right and the Samuel numbers should 
be corrected to agree with it. 

Second Samuel 14:27 says Absalom had 
three sons; 2 Samuel 18:18 says he had 
none. Which is right? (D*) 


BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 

Second Samuel 14:27 says, “And to 
Absalom there were born three sons, 
and one daughter whose name was 
Tamar” (nasb). But 2 Samuel 18:18 
states, “Now Absalom in his lifetime 
had taken and set up for himself a pil- 
lar which is in the King’s Valley, for he 
said, ‘I have no son to preserve my 
name.’ So he named the pillar after his 
own name, and it is called Absalom’s 
monument to this day” (nasb) — that is, 
to the time of the final composition of 
2 Samuel, which may have been in the 
middle of the eighth century b.c. (The 
so-called Absalom’s Tomb that now 
stands in the Kidron Valley probably 
dates from Hellenistic times, ca. sec- 
ond century b.c., judging from the 
style of its facade [cf. K.N. Schoville, 
Biblical Archaeology in Focus (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1978), p. 414].) This es- 
tablishes the fact that by the time he set 
up his monument (which may have 
been a year or two before his rebellion 
against his father, David), Absalom 
had no male heirs surviving to him. 
But it does not prove that none had 
been born to him previously. 

Keil and Delitzsch ( Samuel , p. 412) 
point out, in regard to 2 Samuel 14:27, 
that “contrary to general usage, the 
names of the sons are not given, in all 
probability for no other reason than 
because they died in infancy. Con- 
sequently, as Absalom had no sons, he 
afterwards erected a pillar to preserve 
his name (ch. xviii. 18).” Apparently he 
endured the heartbreak of losing all 
three little boys in their infancy, and it 
had become apparent that his wife 
would not bear him any more. It would 
seem that Tamar was the only one to 
survive out of all his children; and that 
meant he had no male heir to carry on 
his name, hence the poignancy of his 
remark in 18:18, and the rather pa- 
thetic attempt to compensate by the 
erection of a monument in stone. With- 
in a few years Absalom himself died in 
disgrace, as the would-be slayer of his 
own father, David, and as a defiler of 


184 


2 SAMUEL 


his father’s wives. Thus any son of his 
would have had a sorry heritage had 
he survived to adulthood. 

As for the daughter, Tamar (named 
after Absalom’s beautiful sister, whom 
her half-brother Amnon had raped, 
but whom Absalom later avenged by 
having Amnon assassinated), she ap- 
parently lived on and married well. 
Her husband was Uriel of Gibeah 
(cf. 2 Chron. 11:20-22; 13:1). Their 
daughter was the infamous Maacah 
(=Micaiah), who married King Re- 
hoboam (1 Kings 15:2) and became the 
mother of his successor, Abijam. Her 
grandson King Asa finally removed her 
from the position of Queen Mother 
because of her involvement in idolatry 
(1 Kings 15:10-13; 2 Chron. 15:16). 

How could a kind and loving God take 
the life of Bathsheba’s first child just be- 
cause of the sin of its parents (2 Sam. 
12:15-23)? 

One of the profoundest insights 
granted to us through Holy Scripture 
is the true meaning of death. Apart 
from divine revelation we may think of 
death as a fearsome menace, a terrible 
curse, a final stroke of judgment. In- 
sofar as death — that is to say, physical 
death with its separation of the soul 
from the body — means the end of all 
opportunity to find God and to glorify 
Him with a godly life, there is some- 
thing very solemn and awesome about 
death. But God’s Word tells us very 
plainly that physical death, regardless 
of how it looks to the human observer, 
is not the end for any man. He goes 
right on into the eternal phase of his 
career, whether in heaven or in hell — 
whichever he has chosen during his 
earthly life. But since the Son of God 
has come and given His trustworthy 
assurance to all believers, that every- 
one who lives and believes in Me shall 
never die” (John 11:26), death has 
taken on an entirely new meaning. 
Because it was through death — death 


as the sinner’s substitute on the cross — 
that our Savior “conquered death and 
brought life and immortality to light 
through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10) 
death has been robbed of its sting and 
the grave has been deprived of its 
victory (1 Cor. 15:54-56). “Blessed are 
the dead who die in the Lord. . . . that 
they may rest from their labors” (Rev. 
14:13, nasb). 

In the case of children who die in 
infancy, it may well be that they are 
spared a life of tragedy, heartbreak, 
and pain by their immediate departure 
from this world. It is perhaps too 
simplistic to maintain that all children 
dying in infancy are thereby guaran- 
teed a place in heaven, as if the saving 
benefits of Calvary were somehow im- 
puted to them without any response of 
faith on their own part. Such a doctrine 
would be a powerful encouragement 
to parents to kill their babies before 
they reached the age of accountability, 
as the only sure way of their getting 
into heaven. But since infanticide is 
sternly condemned in Scripture as 
an abomination before God (Lev. 18:21; 
Deut. 12:31; 2 Chron. 28:3; Isa. 57:5; 
Jer. 19:4-7), even when perpetrated in 
the name of religion, we must conclude 
that there is some other principle in- 
volved in the salvation of infants be- 
sides their managing to die in infancy. 
That is to say, the omniscience of God 
extends not only to the actual but also 
to the potential. He foreknows not only 
whatever will happen but also what- 
ever would happen. In the case of 
babies who die at birth or before they 
reach the age of accountability, God 
knows what their response would be to 
the proffers of His grace, whether 
acceptance or rejection, whether faith 
or unbelief. 

It was probably for this reason that 
David took comfort after he learned 
that his prayers had been fruitless, and 
that God had taken his little one 
“home.” He resigned his baby to the 
grace of God and said only, “I shall go 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


to him, but he will not return to me” (2 
Sam. 12:23, nasb). David had a quiet 
confidence in the perfection of God’s 
will, even in a heart-rending situation 
like this. And, furthermore, he under- 
stood why God had seen fit to chasten 
the guilty couple by taking from them 
the fruit of their sinful passion. He saw 
that they needed this rebuke as a re- 
minder that God’s children, even 
though forgiven, must bear the tem- 
poral consequences of their sin and pa- 
tiently endure them as an important 
part of their repentance. 

Was Absalom actually buried in Absalom’s 
Tomb in the Kidron Valley? 

Second Samuel 18:17 relates what 
happened to Absalom after Joab 
caught him hanging by the hair from 
the bough of an oak and dispatched 
him with a spear: “And they took Ab- 
salom and cast him into a deep pit in 
the forest and erected over him a very 
great heap of stones” (nasb). The 
“forest” in question was the so-called 
Forest of Ephraim, which was appar- 
ently located in the land of Gilead (on 
the East Bank — whereas the tribal ter- 
ritory of Ephraim was on the West 
Bank). As soon as Absalom’s body was 
cut down from the tree branch it was 
given an inglorious burial in a deep pit, 
even before Absalom’s father, King 
David, had heard of his death. 

The background for the so-called 
Tomb of Absalom in the Kidron Valley 
is to be found in 2 Samuel 18:18, which 
refers to a pillar (massebet) that Ab- 
salom had erected in that valley as a 
compensation for his childlessness so 
far as sons were concerned. “So he 
named the pillar after his own name, 
and it is called Absalom’s monument to 
this day” (nasb, i.e.; the day when 2 
Samuel was finished, ca. 750 b.c.). But 
this pillar was at most a cenotaph; it 
never represented the actual place of 
interment for Absalom’s body, which 


rotted away in the forest pit on the East 
Bank, on the other side of Jordan. 

Who moved David to number his people, 
God or Satan? 

In 2 Samuel 24:1 we read, “And 
again the anger of the Lord was kin- 
dled against Israel, and He moved 
David against them to say, Go, number 
Israel and Judah.” In the parallel ac- 
count in 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 it is 
stated: “And Satan stood up against Is- 
rael, and provoked David to number 
Israel. And David said to Joab and to 
the rulers of the people, Go, number 
Israel from Beer-sheba even to Dan; 
and bring the number of them to me, 
that I may know it.” The wording of 
1 Chronicles 21:2 is very similar to that 
of 2 Samuel 24:2; there is no significant 
difference. But so far as the first verse 
of each chapter is concerned, it ap- 
pears in 2 Samuel 24 that God Himself 
incited David to conduct the census, 
whereas in 1 Chronicles 2 1 it was Sa- 
tan, the adversary of God. This would 
seem to be a serious discrepancy — 
unless both statements are true. 

In neither book are we given a defi- 
nite context for this census taking, and 
we have no way of knowing whether it 
took place before or after Absalom’s 
revolt. But since it led indirectly to the 
acquisition of the hill (Mt. Moriah) that 
became the location of the temple and 
of the royal palaces, it must have oc- 
curred several years before the end of 
David’s career. Only thus could he have 
had opportunity to amass the large 
amount of costly ornamentation and 
material that Solomon was later to use 
in fashioning that temple (1 Chron. 
29:3-5). 

Without being fully aware of what 
was going on in his heart, David had 
apparently been building up an at- 
titude of pride and self-admiration for 
what he had achieved in the way of mil- 
itary success and economic expansion 


186 


2 SAMUEL 


of his people. He began to think more 
in terms of armaments and troops than 
in terms of the faithful mercies of God. 
In his youth he had put his entire trust 
in God alone, whether he was facing 
Goliath with a slingshot or an army of 
Amalekites with a band of four hun- 
dred men. But in later years he had 
come to rely more and more on mate- 
rial resources, like any hardheaded 
realist, and he learned to measure his 
strength by the yardstick of numbers 
and wealth. 

The Lord therefore decided that it 
was time for David to be brought to his 
knees once more and to be cast on the 
grace of God through a time of soul- 
searching trial. He therefore encour- 
aged David to carry out the plan he 
had long cherished, that of counting 
up his manpower resources in order to 
plan his future military strategy with a 
view to the most effective deployment 
of his armies. Quite possibly this would 
also afford him a better base for as- 
sessment of taxes. And so God in effect 
said to him: “All right, go ahead and 
do it. Then you will find out how much 
good it will do you.” 

Though he was a hard-bitten and 
ambitious commander, General Joab 
felt a definite uneasiness about this 
whole project. He sensed that David 
and his advisors were becoming in- 
creasingly puffed up over their bril- 
liant conquests, which had brought the 
Palestinian, Syrian, and Phoenician 
kingdoms into a state of vassalage and 
dependency on Israel. Joab was fearful 
that the Lord was displeased with this 
new attitude of self-confidence and 
self-esteem, and he tried to dissuade 
David from his purpose. First Chroni- 
cles 21:3 records Joab as saying, “The 
Lord make his people an hundred 
times so many more as they be: but, my 
lord the king, are they not all my lord’s 
servants? Why then doth my lord re- 
quire this thing? Why will he be a cause 
of trespass to Israel?” There is a defi- 


nite sense in which Yahweh gave David 
a final warning through the lips of 
Joab, before David finally committed 
himself to the census. 

It was not that census taking was in- 
herently evil. The Lord was not dis- 
pleased with the two censuses taken in 
the time of Moses; in fact, He gave 
Moses positive directions to number all 
his military effectives (Num. 1:2-3; 
26:2), both at the beginning of the 
forty years’ wandering in the desert 
and at the end of that period, as they 
were on the threshold of the conquest. 
The second census was designed to 
show that the total of Israel’s armed 
forces was actually a bit less than it had 
been forty years earlier. And yet with 
that smaller force they would sweep all 
their enemies before them, rather than 
cowering in fear at the prospect of war 
as their fathers had done at Kadesh- 
Barnea. The second census would also 
serve a useful purpose as a basis for the 
distribution of the conquered territory 
among the Twelve Tribes. The more 
numerous tribes should be awarded 
the larger tracts in the apportionment 
of land. But this census on which 
David had set his heart could serve no 
other purpose than to inflate the na- 
tional ego. As soon as the numbering 
was complete, God meant to chasten 
the nation by a disastrous plague that 
would cause a considerable loss of life 
and a decrease in the numbers of their 
citizens. 

But as we turn back to the opening 
verse in 1 Chronicles 21, we are faced 
with the statement that it was Satan who 
moved David to conduct the census 
even over Joab’s warning and protest. 
The verb for “incited” is identical in 
both accounts ( wayyaset ). Why would 
Satan get himself involved in this affair 
if God had already prompted David 
to commit the folly he had in mind? 
It was because Satan found it in his 
own interest to do so. The situation 
here somewhat resembles the first and 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


second chapters of Job, in which it was 
really a challenge to Satan from God 
that led to Job’s calamities. God’s pur- 
pose was to purify Job’s faith and en- 
noble his character through the disci- 
pline of adversity. Satan’s purpose was 
purely malicious; he wished to do Job 
as much harm as he possibly could, 
and if possible drive him to curse God 
for his misfortunes. Thus it came 
about that both God and Satan were 
involved in Job’s downfall and disaster. 

Similarly we find both God and 
Satan involved in the sufferings of 
persecuted Christians according to 
1 Peter 4:19 and 5:8. God’s purpose is 
to strengthen their faith and to enable 
them to share in the sufferings of 
Christ in this life, that they may rejoice 
with Him in the glories of heaven 
to come (4:13-14). But Satan’s purpose 
is to “devour” them (5:8), that is, to 
draw them into bitterness or self-pity, 
and thus drag them down to his level 
and his baneful destiny. Even in the 
case of Christ Himself, it was Satan’s 
purpose to deflect the Savior from 
His messianic mission by the three 
temptations he offered Him; but it was 
the Father’s purpose for the Second 
Adam to triumph completely over the 
very tempter who had lured the first 
Adam to his fall. 

Also, at the Crucifixion it was Satan’s 
purpose to have Jesus betrayed by 
Judas (whose heart he filled with 
treachery and hate [John 13:27]); but 
it was the Father’s purpose that the 
Lamb slain from the foundation of the 
world should give His life as a ransom 
for many — and this was symbolized by 
the cup that Christ was forced to ac- 
cept at Gethsemane. And in the case of 
Peter, Jesus informed him before his 
triple denial in the court of the high 
priest: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked 
to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed 
for you, Simon, that your faith may not 
fail. And when you have turned back, 
strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22: 
31-32, niv). 


Here, then, we have five other 
examples of incidents or situations in 
which both Satan and God were in- 
volved in soul-searching testings and 
trials — God with a basically benevolent 
motive and a view to eventual victory 
and increasing usefulness for the per- 
son so tested, but Satan with an al- 
together malicious motive, hoping to 
do as much damage as he possibly can. 
Therefore we can say without hesita- 
tion that both accounts of David’s in- 
citement were correct. God incited him 
in order to teach him and his people a 
lesson they needed to learn and to 
humble them in a way that would 
promote their spiritual growth. Satan 
incited him in order to deal a severe 
blow to Israel and to mar David’s pres- 
tige before his subjects. As it turned 
out (and this is true of virtually all the 
other examples as well), Satan’s success 
was limited and transient; but in the 
end God’s purpose was well served and 
His cause was substantially furthered. 

In the aftermath of the plague, 
which cost the lives of seventy thou- 
sand Israelites (2 Sam. 24:15), the 
angel of the Lord designated the exact 
spot on Mount Moriah where the 
plague was stopped as the chosen spot 
for the future temple of the Lord 
(v.18). This structure was destined to 
bring much blessing into the lives of 
God’s people for many generations to 
come. Once again Satan’s malice was 
surpassed by the overruling grace of 
God. 

Second Samuel 24:9 gives the total popu- 
lation for Israel as 800,000, which is 
300,000 less than the corresponding figure 
in 1 Chronicles 21:5. On the other hand, 
2 Samuel 24 gives 500,000 for Judah, as 
over against a mere 470,000 in I Chroni- 
cles 21. How can these apparent dis- 
crepancies be reconciled? (D*) 

A possible solution may be found 
along these lines. So far as Israel (i.e., 
the tribes north of Judah) is con- 


188 


2 SAMUEL 


cerned, the 1 Chronicles figure in- 
cludes all the available men of fighting 
age, whether battle seasoned or not. 
But from 2 Samuel 24 we learn that 
Joab’s report gave a subtotal of 
“mighty men” (’is hayil ), i.e., battle- 
seasoned troops, consisting of 800,000 
veterans. But in addition there may 
have been 300,000 more men of mili- 
tary age who served in the reserves but 
had not yet been involved in field com- 
bat. These two contingents would make 
up a total of 1,100,000 — as 1 Chronicles 
21 reports them, without employing 
the term ’is hayil. 

So far as Judah was concerned, 
2 Samuel 24 gives the round figure of 
500,000, which was 30,000 more than 
the corresponding item in 1 Chronicles 
21. Now it should be observed that 

1 Chronicles 21:6 makes it clear that 
Joab did not complete the numbering, 
for he did not get around to a census 
of the tribe of Benjamin (nor that of 
Levi, either) before David came under 
conviction about completing the cen- 
sus at all. Joab was glad to desist when 
he saw the king’s change of heart. The 
procedure for conducting the census 
had been to start with the Transjor- 
danian tribes (2 Sam. 24:5) and then 
shift to the northernmost tribe of Dan 
and work southward back toward Jeru- 
salem (v.7). This meant that the num- 
bering of Benjamin would have come 
last. Hence Benjamin was not included 
with the total for Israel or that for 
Judah, either. But in the case of 

2 Samuel 24, the figure for Judah in- 
cluded the already known figure of 
30,000 troops mustered by Benjamin 
(which lay immediately adjacent to Jeru- 
salem itself). Hence the total of 500,000 
included the Benjamite contingent. 

Observe that after the division of the 
united kingdom into North and South 
following the death of Solomon in 930 
b.c., most of the Benjamites remained 
loyal to the dynasty of David and con- 
stituted (along with Simeon to the 
south) the kingdom of Judah. Hence it 


was reasonable to include Benjamin 
with Judah and Simeon in the subtotal 
figure of 500,000 — even though Joab 
may not have itemized it in the first 
report he gave to David (1 Chron. 
21:5). It would seem then that the 
completed grand total of the fighting 
forces available to David for military 
service was 1 ,600,000 (1,1 00,000 of Is- 
rael, 470,000 of Judah-Simeon, and 
30,000 of Benjamin). 

Why is there a discrepancy in the num- 
ber of years of famine mentioned in 
2 Samuel 24:13 and in 1 Chronicles 21:11- 
12? (D*) 

Second Samuel 24: 13 relates the visit 
of the prophet Gad to King David after 
he had finished the census of his king- 
dom in a spirit of pride. Gad relays 
God’s message to him in the following 
terms: “Shall seven years of famine 
come to you in your land? Or will you 
flee three months before your foes 
while they pursue you? Or shall there 
be three days’ pestilence in your land?” 
(nasb). To this David replies in a spirit 
of humble repentance, “Let us now fall 
into the hand of the Lord, for His 
mercies are great, but do not let me fall 
into the hand of man” (v. 14, nasb). 

In 1 Chronicles 21:11-12, Gad 
comes to David and says to him, “Thus 
says the Lord, ‘Take for yourself either 
three years of famine, or three months 
to be swept away before your foes, 
... or else three days of the sword of 
the Lord, even pestilence in the land.’ ” 
(nasb). Note that the wording here is 
significantly different from that of 2 
Samuel 24:13 (i.e., “Shall seven years 
of famine come to you?”). Rather than 
that simple question in 2 Samuel, 
we have it given here in 1 Chronicles 
as an alternative imperative (“Take 
for yourself either three years of 
famine . . .”). 

From this we may reasonably con- 
clude that 2 Samuel records the first 
approach of Gad to David, in which 


189 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


the alternative prospect was seven 
years; the Chronicles account gives us 
the second and final approach of 
Nathan to the king, in which the Lord 
(doubtless in response to David’s ear- 
nest entreaty in private prayer) re- 
duced the severity of that grim alterna- 
tive to three years rather than an entire 
span of seven. As it turned out, how- 
ever, David finally opted for God’s 
own preference (whether famine or 
pestilence); and God sent three days of 
severe pestilence, which carried off the 
lives of seventy thousand men of Is- 
rael. 

In 2 Samuel 24:24 it says that David 
“bought the threshing floor and the oxen 
for fifty shekels of silver.” But in 1 
Chronicles 21:25 it says David gave to 
Oman for the place “600 shekels of gold 
by weight.” How are these two statements 
to be reconciled? (D*) 

The record in 2 Samuel 24:24 refers 
to the immediate purchase price paid 
by King David to Araunah (or “Or- 
nan,” as his name was alternatively 
spelled) for the two oxen and the 
wooden threshing cart being used by 
the Jebusite owner at the time David 
came up to see him. David’s exact 
words in v.21 are as follows: “To buy 
the threshing floor from you, in order 
to build an altar to the Lord” (nasb). A 
threshing floor is generally an area 
of modest dimensions, not usually 
broader than thirty or forty feet. The 
market price for the two oxen and the 


cart would scarcely exceed the sum 
of fifty shekels of silver under the 
market values then prevailing. 

In 1 Chronicles 21:25, however, we 
are told that David paid the much 
larger price of six hundred shekels of 
gold, which was possibly 180 times as 
much as fifty shekels of silver. But the 
Chronicles figure seems to include not 
merely the oxen and the threshing 
sledge but also the entire site. The He- 
brew wayyitten . . . bammaqom (“And he 
gave for the place”) seems to be far 
more inclusive than the mere thresh- 
ing floor. Neither in the fifth century 
b.c., nor in any other period in ancient 
history, would a threshing floor have 
cost anything like six hundred gold 
shekels. Consequently we may safely 
conclude that Oman possessed the en- 
tire area of Mount Moriah. 

About sixteen hundred feet long 
and on a commanding elevation, 
Mount Moriah was an extremely valu- 
able piece of real estate, easily worth 
six hundred shekels of gold. The ad- 
visability of acquiring enough square 
footage for a temple site must have 
commended itself to King David, as he 
viewed the area of the threshing floor 
and realized how advantageous it 
would be to have the entire hilltop set 
apart for religious and governmental 
purposes. It was probably a somewhat 
later transaction with Oman when 
David paid him the much larger price 
for the whole tract, and the Chronicler 
saw fit to record this entire transaction 
from the standpoint of its end result. 


190 


How can 1 Kings 6:1 be accepted as ac- 
curate if Raineses the Great was Pharaoh 
of the Exodus? 

First Kings 6:1 states, “Now it came 
about in the four hundred and 
eightieth year after the sons of Israel 
came out of the land of Egypt, in the 
fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Is- 
rael, ... he began to build the house of 
the Lord” (nasb). Since Solomon’s 
reign began in 970 b.c., his fourth year 
would have been 966. Four hundred 
and eighty years before 966 comes out 
to 1446 or 1445. (There may have 
been a rounding off of numbers here, 
but essentially the time locus of the 
Exodus would have been between 
1447 and 1442, if 1 Kings 6:1 is cor- 
rect.) This would have been early in 
the reign of Amenhotep II, who ac- 
cording to the usual estimates reigned 
between 1447 and 1421. (Some more 
recent discussions of Egyptian chron- 
ology tend to lower these dates by 
a few years, but they have not yet 
been generally accepted as valid.) 

The most-favored date for the 
Exodus in scholarly circles is about 
1290, or quite early in the reign of 
Ramses II (1300-1234). In most of the 
popularizations of the Exodus drama, 
such as Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten 
Commandments,” the late date theory 
is assumed to be correct. The principal 
arguments in its favor are as follows: 

1. The Israelites are stated in Exodus 

1:11 to have labored as slaves in the 


building of the city of “ Raamses 
which presupposes that there was 
already a King Rameses for this city 
to have been named after. 

2. Since the Hyksos Dynasty was in 
charge of Egypt at the time Jacob 
migrated into Egypt— at least ac- 
cording to the Jewish historian 
Josephus — and since the Hyksos 
may not have seized power much 
before 1750 b.c., the 1445 date is 
precluded. Exodus 12:40 testifies 
that the Israelites sojourned in 
Egypt for 430 years, a subtraction 
of 430 from 1750 would come out 
to 1320 — which is much closer to 
the time of Rameses II in the 
Nineteenth Dynasty than to the 
period of Amenhotep II of the 
Eighteenth Dynasty. 

3. The early chapters of Exodus pre- 
suppose the proximity of the royal 
residence to the land of Goshen up 
in the Delta, whereas the capital of 
Egypt in the Eighteenth Dynasty 
was five hundred miles further 
south, in the city of Thebes. But 
Rameses built up Tanis in the Delta 
as his northern capital and as the 
base of his military expeditions 
against Palestine and Syria. 

4. The archaeological evidence of the 
destruction levels in key Palestinian 
cities like Lachish, Debir, and 
Hazor points rather to the thir- 
teenth century than to the early 
fourteenth century, as the early 
date theory would require. Fur- 
thermore, the extensive explor- 


191 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


ations of surface sites in the various 
tells throughout Transjordan car- 
ried on by Nelson Glueck indicate 
that there was no strongly en- 
trenched, sedentary population to 
be found in Moab, Heshbon, or 
Bashan, such as is indicated in the 
Mosaic campaigns of conquest 
against Sihon and Og according to 
the record of Numbers 21 and 
Deuteronomy 1. 

5. The failure of the Book of Judges 
to mention any Egyptian invasions 
of Palestine during the late four- 
teenth and thirteenth centuries is a 
strong indication that those inva- 
sions were already past history by 
the time of Joshua and the Israelite 
conquest of Canaan. 

These five arguments present an 
impressive case for the inaccuracy of 1 
Kings 6:1. If the Exodus actually took 
place around 1290 b.c., then the figure 
should have been 324 years rather 
than 480. Some Evangelical scholars 
who adhere to the late date theory 
point out that 480 may be an “artifi- 
cial” number, intending to convey no 
more than that there were about 
twelve generations intervening be- 
tween the Exodus and the temple 
(thought of as 40 years each, because 
of the prominence of the number 40 in 
the lives of leaders like Moses and 
Joshua). But the true average length of 
generations is 30 years rather than 40, 
and so we may perhaps correct the 
total number to 360 rather than 480 
(so R. K. Harrison, Old Testament Intro- 
duction, pp. 178-79). 

However, careful examination of the 
case for the late date theory shows that 
it is incapable of successful defense in 
the light of all the evidence. Not only 
does 1 Kings 6:1 unequivocally affirm 
the 1445 date for the departure of the 
Israelites from Egypt (the whole 
theory of symbolical or artificial num- 
bers in matters of dating in the Old 
Testament has no objective support 


whatever), but so does Judges 11:26. 
This contains a question put by Jeph- 
thah to the Ammonite invaders who 
laid claim to the Israelite territory east 
of the Jordan: “For three hundred 
years Israel occupied Heshbon. Aroer, 
the surrounding settlements, and all 
the towns along the Arnon. Why didn’t 
you retake them in that time?” Since 
the probable date of Jephthah was 
about half a century before King Saul, 
Jephthah’s parley with the Ammonites 
must be dated around 1100 b.c. His 
remarks therefore imply a conquest 
dating back to about 1400, which fits 
in perfectly with a 1445 Exodus. Since 
this is a casual reference to chron- 
ology and adduces a time interval 
apparently well known to Israel’s ene- 
mies and acknowledged by them, it 
carries special credibility as evidence 
for the early date. 

Nor is this the only corroboration of 
1 Kings 6:1. In his speech at Antioch 
Pisidia, the apostle Paul affirms in 
Acts 13:19-20: “And when He had 
destroyed seven nations in the land of 
Canaan, He distributed their land as an 
inheritance — all of which took about 
four hundred and fifty years. And 
after these things [i.e., after the divi- 
sion of the land to the Twelve Tribes] 
He gave them judges until Samuel the 
prophet” (nasb). Quite clearly the 
interval included the first departure 
from Egypt to take possession of the 
Holy Land, all the way to the end of 
Samuel’s career, as the prophet who 
anointed David as king. In other 
words, about 450 years elapsed be- 
tween the Exodus and the establish- 
ment of David in the Holy City of 
Jerusalem: 1445 to 995 b.c. 

Thus it turns out that if the 1290 
date is correct, then we must condemn 
as inaccurate at least two other pas- 
sages in Scripture besides 1 Kings 6:1 
itself; and the Bible then loses all claim 
to complete trustworthiness in matters 
of historical fact — even the major 
events of the history of Redemption. It 


192 


1 KINGS 


is therefore of particular importance 
to examine the case for the accuracy of 
the 1445 date indicated by these two 
passages from the Old Testament and 
the one from Acts 13. 

First, as to the reference to the slave 
labor of the Israelites in the city of 
Rameses in Exodus 1:11, it should be 
noted that even by the late date theory 
this would have to be regarded as an 
anachronism (i.e., a later name applied 
to the city than the name it bore at the 
time of their taskwork in it). The ref- 
erence to this work project occurs be- 
fore any mention of the birth of Moses, 
and Moses was eighty years of age by 
the time of the Exodus event. It would 
have been impossible for Moses to 
have been born after the commence- 
ment of Rameses’s reign in 1300 b.c. 
and then be eighty years old ten years 
later! Consequently the city in question 
could not have borne the name 
Raamses” back in the period referred 
to by Exodus 1:11. Therefore its evi- 
dential value for the late date theory is 
fatally undermined. It should also be 
observed, however, that even though a 
later name was inserted in place of the 
original name of the city that was cur- 
rent in Moses’ time, this furnishes no 
more difficulty than to refer to Kiriath 
Arba as Hebron, even though narrat- 
ing an event that took place there prior 
to its change of name. Nor would a his- 
tory of England be justly accused of 
inaccuracy if it spoke of Constantius I 
of Rome making a triumphant march 
into “York” back in a day when it was 
called “Eboracum.” 

Second, as to the argument that 
there could not have been a 430-year 
interval between a Jacob migration in 
the Hyksos period and a 1445 Exodus, 
we freely admit the force of this objec- 
tion. If the Hyksos rule began around 
1750 b.c., a 1445 Exodus would be out 
of the question. But we hasten to add 
that the textual evidence of both 
Genesis and Exodus make it quite cer- 
tain that it was a native Egyptian 


dynasty that was in power back in 
Joseph s day; it could not have been 
Hyksos — Josephus to the contrary 
notwithstanding. Consider the follow- 
ing facts: 

1. The reigning dynasty looks down 
with contempt on Semitic for- 
eigners from Palestine and forbids 
such to eat at the same table with 
Egyptians (Gen. 43:32: “The Egyp- 
tians might not eat bread with the 
Hebrews; for that is an abomination 
unto the Egyptians”). But the Hyk- 
sos themselves had originally come 
down from Palestine into Egypt, 
speaking a Semitic language like 
theirs. (Thus their first king was 
named Salitis, representing the 
Semitic term sallit; they named 
their cities in Egypt Succoth, Baal- 
zephon, and Migdol, all good 
Canaanite names.) It is therefore 
inconceivable that they would have 
regarded other visitors from Pales- 
tine as an inferior breed of human- 
ity. But the ethnic Egyptians cer- 
tainly did so, as their literature 
abundantly testifies. 

2. Joseph is obviously uneasy about his 
family admitting to the Egyptian 
authorities that they were shep- 
herds as well as cattle raisers. (Gen. 
46:34 states quite plainly: “For 
every shepherd is an abomina- 
tion unto the Egyptians.”) But this 
could scarcely have been true of the 
Hyksos, who were so closely as- 
sociated with sheep-herding in the 
recollection of the later Egyptians 
that they (like Manetho) construed 
the name “Hyksos” to mean “Shep- 
herd Kings.” During their era cer- 
tainly there could have been no 
reproach attachable to the raising 
of sheep. 

3. The Pharaoh “who knew not Jo- 
seph” came to power a consider- 
able interval after Joseph’s death 
and after his family had already set- 
tled in Goshen. Therefore we are 


193 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


warranted in assuming that this 
new Pharaoh was a Hyksos rather 
than a native Egyptian. This 
emerges from his concern ex- 
pressed in Exodus 1:8-10 as to the 
alarming population growth of the 
Hebrews, whom he states to be 
“more and mightier than we” 
(nasb). The population of Egypt 
was unquestionably much larger 
than the two million or so Israelites 
(who only became that numerous 
by the time of the Exodus, many 
years later). But for the leader of 
the warrior caste of the Hyksos, 
who dominated the native popula- 
tion only through their superior 
military organization (something 
like the Spartans as they kept the 
more numerous Helots and Mes- 
senians subject to their rule), this 
would not have been an exagger- 
ated apprehension. Because of the 
steadfast loyalty of Joseph and his 
family to the Egyptian government, 
a Hyksos monarch might well have 
feared that they might make com- 
mon cause with a native Egyptian 
uprising (“Let us deal wisely with 
them, lest they multiply and in the 
event of war, they also join them- 
selves to those who hate us, and 
fight against us” [v. 10]). It was at a 
later time, then, after the Hyksos 
themselves had finally been ex- 
pelled from Egypt by Ahmose — who 
however left the Hebrews undis- 
turbed in Goshen because of their 
consistent loyalty to the native 
Egyptians — that Amenhotep I of 
the Eighteenth Dynasty adopted 
the oppressive policy of the Hyksos 
rulers. Amenhotep I also was un- 
easy at the phenomenal growth of 
the Hebrew population in Goshen 
and tried to discourage this growth 
by hard labor and, finally, by the 
time of Moses’ birth, by infanticide. 
If it is at v.13 that this Eighteenth- 
Dynasty oppression begins, then we 
must understand the Hyksos as hav- 


ing compelled the Israelites to work 
on the storage cities of Pithom and 
Raamses. In this connection it 
might be pointed out that the name 
“Raamses” itself may have been of 
Hyksos origin. The father of 
Rameses II was “Seti,” which means 
“Follower of Seth” or “Sutekh,” the 
Egyptian equivalent of “Baal,” who 
was the patron god of the Hyksos 
dynasties. A great many of the Hyk- 
sos royal names ended likewise in 
“Ra,” the name of the sun god of 
Egypt (names such as Aa-woser-Ra, 
Neb-khepesh-ra, Aa-qenen-ra, etc.), 
and Ra-mose (a name already cur- 
rent in the Eighteenth Dynasty, 
by the way) means “Born of Ra.” 
(Ra-mes-su, the Egyptian spelling 
of Rameses, actually means “Ra has 
begotten him.”) But it is most signif- 
icant that Rameses II went to great 
effort and expense to restore and 
build up the old Hyksos capital of 
Avaris, even though he named it 
after himself. At all events, nothing 
could be more unlikely than that 
Joseph and his family moved into 
Egypt during the Hyksos period. 
Hence this objection to the 1445 
Exodus is without weight. 

Third, the argument that an Eigh- 
teenth Dynasty Pharaoh would have 
kept his royal residence far down (or 
up) the Nile, five hundred miles away 
from Goshen, also proves to be un- 
tenable in the light of the inscriptional 
evidence. We offer the following data: 

1. Thutmose III, the probable “Pha- 
raoh of the Oppression,” erected 
two red granite obelisks in front 
of the temple of Ra (or Re', as it 
is more usually vocalized today) in 
Heliopolis, describing himself as 
“Lord of Heliopolis.” This city was 
at the base of the Delta, and there- 
fore hardly remote from Goshen. It 
is fair to assume that up in the Delta 
he had frequent need of slave labor 


194 


1 KINGS 


for his building projects, especially 
in view of the barracks and military 
installations that had to be erected 
in the Delta as a base of operations 
against Palestine and Syria (which 
he invaded no less than fourteen 
times). 

2. An Eighteenth-Dynasty scarab has 
been found that refers to the birth 
of Amenhotep II as having oc- 
curred in Memphis, likewise at the 
base of the Delta. From this we 
must assume that at least part of the 
time Thutmose III must have main- 
tained a palace in Memphis. 

3. In an inscription set up by 
Amenhotep himself (translated in 
Pritchard, ANET, p. 244), he re- 
calls how he used to ride out from 
the royal stable in Memphis to prac- 
tice archery near the pyramids of 
Gizeh. W. C. Hayes ( The Scepter of 
Egypt, 2 vols. [Cambridge: Harvard 
University, 1959], 2:141) concludes 
that Amenhotep must have main- 
tained large estates at Perwennefer, 
a large naval dockyard near Mem- 
phis, and that he resided there for 
extended periods of time. So much 
for the theory that Eighteenth- 
Dynasty kings resided only at 
Thebes. 

Fourth, the archaeological evidence 
of thirteenth-century destruction lev- 
els at cities like Lachish, Debir, and 
Hazor, mentioned in the narrative of 
Joshua’s conquests, fails to furnish any 
decisive evidence that Joshua’s inva- 
sion in fact took place in the thirteenth 
century. In the turbulent, unsettled 
conditions that characterized the per- 
iod of the Judges, such as the total 
destruction meted out to Shechem by 
Abimelech the son of Gideon, episodes 
of this sort must have been frequent, 
even though our scanty records do not 
permit any specific identification of 
the victorious aggressor in most in- 
stances. As for the date of the destruc- 
tion of City IV in Old Testament 


Jericho, even though the collapsed 
walls may have been erected consider- 
ably earlier than 1400 b.c. (as 
Katherine Kenyon deduced from the 
sherds discovered in the earth-fill), 
these walls may still have been the 
same as those that fell before Joshua at 
the time of the Israelite conquest. 
After all, the walls that now surround 
Carcassonne in France and Avila in 
Spain were erected many centuries be- 
fore our present era — yet they still 
stand today. But their earth-fill must 
contain artifacts and sherds coming 
from several centuries ago, rather than 
from the late 1900s. 

But more significant for dating the 
Fall of Jericho to the end of the fif- 
teenth century is the fact that the as- 
sociated cemetery (contemporaneous 
with City IV) yielded numerous Egyp- 
tian scarabs bearing the name of 
Eighteenth-Dynasty Egyptian kings, 
but none of them later than Amen- 
hotep III, in whose reign (1412— 
1376) the capture of Jericho would 
have occurred, according to the early 
date theory. Over 150,000 sherds were 
discovered in City IV, according to 
John Garstang’s published reports, 
but only one piece was found of the 
Mycenean type. Since Mycenean ware 
was introduced into Canaan soon after 
1400, we are forced to conclude that 
City IV was destroyed before the early 
fourteenth century. Concerning this, 
John Garstang wrote: 

We are aware that varying opinions 
have appeared in print which conflict 
with our interpretation of the date of the 
fall of Jericho about 1400 b.c. Few such 
opinions are based on first-hand knowl- 
edge of the scientific results of our exca- 
vations; while many of them are devoid 
of logical reasoning, or are based upon 
preconceptions as to the date of the 
Exodus. No commentator has yet pro- 
duced from the results of our excava- 
tions, which have been fully published in 
the Liverpool Annals of Archaeology, 
any evidence that City IV remained in 


195 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


being after the reign of Amenhotep III 
We see no need therefore to dis- 
cuss the date as though it were a matter 
for debate (The Story oJ Jericho [London: 
Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1948], 
p. xiv). 

Perhaps it should be added that the 
reference to iron implements as part of 
the booty taken from Jericho, accord- 
ing to Joshua 6:24, is no decisive evi- 
dence that the city fell during the Iron 
Age (twelfth century and thereafter). 
In fact the contrary is the case, for dur- 
ing the Iron Age iron objects would 
hardly have been mentioned with gold 
and silver as valuable booty, for by the 
Iron Age this metal had come into 
common use. Yet iron itself was known 
and used long before 1200 b.c. in the 
Near East, for iron objects have been 
found at Tell Asmar dating from 
about 2500 b.c. (Oriental Institute Com- 
munications, ASOR, 17:59-61). The 
Hebrew word for “iron” is barzel, cor- 
responding to the Babylonian parzillu, 
and it was probably derived from the 
ancient Sumerian language, which 
spells the word for “iron” as na AN.- 
BAR (Deimel, Sumerisch.es Lexikon, 
Heft 2). 

As for the often-cited negative find- 
ings of Nelson Glueck concerning the 
nonexistence of sedentary occupation 
in the Transjordan during the fif- 
teenth century b.c., the most recent 
(though unofficial) reports indicate 
that sherds that Glueck could not iden- 
tify he did not mention in his 
survey — and some of them may well 
have been from that period (cf. H. J. 
Franken and W. J. A. Power, “Glueck’s 
Exploration in Eastern Palestine in the 
Light of Recent Evidence,” VT 9 
[1971]: 1 19-23). In the last thirty years 
an increasing number of excavated sites 
have testified to urban centers that 
flourished during the supposedly un- 
occupied era. Thus G. Lankaster Hard- 
ing reported in the Biblical Archaeologist 
for February 1953 the discovery of an 


ancient tomb in Amman containing nu- 
merous artifacts (black-pricked ware, 
buttonbase vases, oil flasks, scarabs, 
and toggle pins) dating from about 
1600. In his Antiquities of Jordan (1959, 
p. 32), Harding described characteris- 
tically Middle Bronze pottery and 
other artifacts found at Naur and 
Mount Nebo. In 1967 a sixteenth- 
century tomb was discovered in Pella 
(ASOR Newsletter, December 1967). 
Under a runway at the Amman airport 
a Late Bronze temple was uncovered 
in 1955. The excavations at Deir Alla 
by Franken and those of Siegfried 
Horn at Heshbon have shown that the 
pottery of Transjordan was quite dis- 
similar to contemporary pottery pro- 
duced on the West Bank; since Glueck 
was unaware of this fact, an important 
margin of error entered into his calcu- 
lations (cf. E. Yamauchi’s article in 
Christianity Today, 22 December 1971, 

p. 26). 

The site of Ai is usually identified 
with Et-Tell, which according to the 
archaeological evidence was unoc- 
cupied between 2200 b.c. and 1200 
b.c. or a little afterward. There are 
many reasons for rejecting the iden- 
tification of Ai with Et-Tell, but since 
its period of nonoccupation agrees 
neither with the early date nor the late 
date theory, it hardly seems worth dis- 
cussion. W. F. Albright’s suggestion 
was that the account in Joshua 7 was 
garbled and that it was Bethel itself 
that the Israelites captured and de- 
stroyed rather than Ai. But Albright 
failed to explain how the observers 
from Bethel were able to descry the 
pretended flight of the Israelites from 
the charge of the Aites (Josh. 8:17), or 
how the inhabitants of both cities could 
have taken part in the pursuit. The 
true location of Ai has yet to be discov- 
ered, but until further excavation re- 
veals a Late Bronze level of occupation 
(which is entirely possible) Et-Tell has 
no bearing whatever on the dating of 
the Conquest. 


196 


On the other hand, the archaeologi- 
cal data from the Wadi Tumilat (an- 
cient Goshen) is quite decisive against 
a Nineteenth-Dynasty date for the 
events of the Exodus. In the Nine- 
teenth Dynasty, Rameses II carried 
on extensive building in that area oc- 
cupied formerly by the Hebrews. This 
cannot be reconciled with the situation 
of exclusive Israelite occupation dur- 
ing the Ten Plagues. The details of the 
plague of dies, the plague of hail, and 
the plague of darkness make it clear (in 
Exod. 8:22; 9:25-26; 10:23) that the 
Hebrews were exempted from these 
afflictions in the region that they in- 
habited. This strongly suggests that no 
Egyptians were living at all in Goshen 
during this period, in view of the fact 
that all the Egyptians had to bear the 
brunt of these three plagues. But back 
in the days of Thutmose III and 
Amenhotep II of the Eighteenth Dy- 
nasty, there was no Egyptian building 
activity in the Wadi Tumilat at all — 
so far as the present state of our knowl- 
edge goes. 

As far as the fifth argument for a 
1290 date is concerned, that the Book 
of Judges contains no references to the 
Egyptian invasions of Seti I and 
Rameses the Great in the land of Ca- 
naan, this turns out to be of little 
weight. The Book of Judges is equally 
silent concerning Egyptian invasions of 
Palestine that took place after the 
death of Rameses II and prior to the 
establishment of the Hebrew mon- 
archy. His son Merneptah records 
in the so-called Israel Stela (on display 
at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities 
in Cairo) an allegedly devastating inva- 
sion in 1229 throughout the land of 
the Hittites, Yanoam near Laish-Dan, 
Gezer near the Valley of Aijalon, Ash- 
kelon in Philistia, and also against the 
Horites and the Israelites themselves. 
This would have to have occurred in 
the time of the Judges, even according 
to the late date theory. 

Nor is there any mention of the 


1 KINGS 

campaigns of Rameses I II ( 1 204-1 172) 
of the Twentieth Dynasty. Inscriptions 
of his (published in Pritchard, ANET, 
p. 262) record that he subdued the 
Tjeker (Palestinians) and burnt the 
cities of the Philistines to ashes. Some 
of the bas-reliefs on his monuments 
depict his triumphant progress up to 
Djahi (Phoenicia) to the north. In 
Beth-shan at the eastern end of the 
Plain of the Esdraelon, stelae have 
been discovered attesting his authority 
in that region. These examples show 
that the Hebrew account did not see fit 
to refer to the Egyptian invasions at 
any period during the time of the 
Judges. The reason for this silence is 
not quite clear, but at any rate its sup- 
posed evidence for a 1290 date for the 
Exodus turns out to be valueless. 

John Garstang and J.B. Payne both 
offered the suggestion that the periods 
of “rest” referred to in Judges may 
have coincided with periods of time 
when the Egyptians were in firm con- 
trol of the main strongholds and im- 
portant highways of Palestine, thus in- 
suring no major movements of aggres- 
sion on the part of Mesopotamian in- 
vaders or Moabites or Ammonites or 
Philistines. Thus the eighty years of 
peace following the death of King 
Eglon of Moab would have coincided 
with the pacification of Canaan by 
Seti I and Rameses II. The quiet period 
after the overthrow of Jabin and Sisera 
by Deborah and Barak may have been 
the result of the firm control by 
Rameses III. Perhaps the references to 
the “hornet” sent by the Lord to drive 
out the Canaanites before the Israelite 
attack is a covert reference to the 
Egyptian invasions (cf. Exod. 23:28; 
Deut. 7:20; Josh. 24:12). The hiero- 
glyphic symbol for the king of Lower 
Egypt was a wasp-shaped bee. 
Whether or not this was the case, the 
fact remains that there is no specific 
reference to any Egyptian invasion of 
the Holy Land until the time of Sol- 
omon, so far as the Hebrew records go. 


197 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


After this rather extensive survey of 
the biblical, historical, and archaeolog- 
ical evidence, we are forced to con- 
clude that only the 1445 date can be 
sustained. It is quite obvious that the 
Pharaoh from whom Moses had to flee 
after his slaying of the Egyptian 
taskmaster remained on the throne 
until near the close of Moses’ forty- 
year sojourn in Midian; for Exodus 
4:19 reports Yahweh as saying to 
Moses, “Go, return into Egypt; for all 
the men are dead which sought your 
life.” The whole tenor of the narrative 
in Exodus 2 leads us to believe that it 
was the Pharaoh of 1:22 who “after 
many days” passed away, as mentioned 
in 2:23. No other Pharaoh meets all 
these qualifications besides Thutmose 
III. He alone was on the throne long 
enough (1501-1447) to have been 
reigning at the time of Moses’ flight 
from Egypt until near the time of 
his return. 

Thutmose’s son Amenhotep II, who 
doubtless hoped to equal his father’s 
prowess, proved unable to launch any 
invasion of Palestine apart from his 
modest campaigns in his fifth year and 
his seventh year — or was it the ninth 
year? The Memphis stela dates his first 
campaign in the seventh year and the 
second in his ninth year, but the 
Amada stela puts his first campaign in 
the third year (cf. J. A. Wilson’s foot- 
note in Pritchard, ANET, p. 245). This 
suggests that some major disaster, such 
as the loss of his main chariot force in 
the Red Sea crossing (Exod. 14), was a 
factor in his diminished scale of for- 
eign aggression. 

As for Amenhotep II’s son and suc- 
cessor, Thutmose IV, the evidence of 
his “Dream Stela” strongly suggests 
that he was not the firstborn son but a 
younger son who would not ordinarily 
have been eligible to succeed him. In 
this text (which had apparently been 
somewhat damaged and then later re- 
stored) the god of the Sphinx, Har- 
em-akht, appeared to the young prince 


and promised him the throne of Egypt 
if he would have his sand-engulfed 
shrine dug out and restored for wor- 
ship. Obviously if Thutmose had al- 
ready been his father’s oldest son, he 
would have needed no such promise 
from the god but would have auto- 
matically succeeded his father upon 
the latter’s decease. It is reasonable 
to infer from this that the oldest son 
of Amenhotep II was carried off by 
some accident or illness prematurely — 
such as the tenth plague. 

Many other evidences could be ad- 
vanced in support of the 1445 b.c. date 
for the Exodus and in refutation of the 
1290 theory, but what has already been 
adduced is more than sufficient to 
prove the point. (See further my Sur- 
vey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 
215 — 19; Bimson, Redating the Exodus, 
pp. 35-146; Leon Wood, A Survey of 
Israel’s History [Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1970], pp. 88-109.) 

Doesn’t 1 Kings 7:23 give an inaccurate 
value for pi? 

First Kings 7:23 says, “He [Hiram] 
made the sea of cast metal ten cubits 
from brim to brim, circular in form, 
and its height was five cubits, and 
thirty cubits in circumference” (nasb). 
Some critics have urged this approxi- 
mate value of three to one as the rela- 
tionship between the diameter and the 
circumference of the circle amounts to 
a geometrical inaccuracy, inconsistent 
with a truly errorless Scripture. The 
true value of pi is calculated to be 
3.14159 rather than 3.0. 

This criticism is, however, devoid of 
merit. While it is true that the more 
exact calculation of pi is essential for 
scientific purposes, or for the manu- 
facture of precision parts in a factory, 
the use of approximate proportions or 
totals is a familiar practice in normal 
speech, even today. If the statistical 
statements concerning the population 
of cities or nations were subjected to 


198 


1 KINGS 


the same stringent standard as that 
leveled at 1 Kings 7:23, then we would 
have to say that all population statistics 
are in error. A certain number of 
people are dying each minute, and 
babies are being born at a standard 
rate every sixty seconds; therefore any 
exact sum that might be true at 1:00 
p.m. on a given day through computer 
calculation would be “inaccurate” by 
1:01 p.m. that same day. It is perfectly 
proper to speak of the circumference 
of any circle as being three times its 
diameter if we are speaking approxi- 
mately, just as one may legitimately 
state that the population of China is 
from 800 million to one billion. The 
Hebrew author here is obviously speak- 
ing in the approximate way that is 
normal practice even today. 

There is one interesting feature 
about this that might well be added. If 
the rod used to mark out a length of 
five cubits (approximately ninety 
inches) for the radius were used to 
measure the inside circumference of 
the same bowl-shaped vessel here de- 
scribed, then it would take exactly six 
of those five-cubit measures to com- 
plete the circumference. Let the skep- 
tic try it and see! 

Despite 1 Kings 9:22, didn’t Solomon im- 
pose forced labor on Israelite citizens? 

First Kings 9:22 says that in contrast 
to the descendants of the conquered 
Canaanite nations, “Solomon did not 
make slaves [/o’ na-tan . . , ' a-bed ] of the 
sons of Israel; for they were men of 
war, his servants [ a badim], his princes, 
his captains, his chariot commanders, 
and his horsemen” (nasb). In other 
words, he treated them as free men, as 
citizens of honorable standing. Yet ear- 
lier, in 1 Kings 5:13 (5:27 Heb.), it is 
stated that “King Solomon levied 
forced laborers [lit., ‘raised a levy of 
forced labor’] from all Israel; and the 
forced laborers [ hammas ] numbered 
30,000 men” (nasb). Each of three con- 


tingents of ten thousand worked for 
four months of the year, by shifts or in 
rotation. Besides these there were sev- 
enty thousand burden bearers and 
eighty thousand stonecutters to assist 
in procuring and preparing the mate- 
rials for the temple and palace that 
were to be erected on the temple 
mount in Jerusalem. 

It is not stated whether the burden 
bearers and stonecutters were non- 
Israelite Canaanites, but it is a fair as- 
sumption that they were. Nothing is 
said about the division into shifts that 
characterized the Israelite workers, as 
just described. It is a fair assumption 
also that the thirty thousand Israelites 
who participated in the felling and 
processing of building materials for 
the temple were specially selected for 
their experience and skill along these 
lines, and that they considered it a 
privilege to have a part in this work for 
God. Hence there is no real contradic- 
tion between the two statements (5:13 
and 9:22). 

It should be noted, however, that 
Solomon did not restrict the drafting 
of an Israelite labor force to the temple 
mount structures. He apparently used 
this kind of work crew to strengthen 
the defenses of Jerusalem as well: the 
filling up of the depression between 
Mount Zion and Mount Moriah as a 
heightened and fortified Millo (“Fill- 
ing”), along with a general improve- 
ment of the entire city wall (1 Kings 
9:15). Some of the provincial capitals 
required this type of additional fortifi- 
cation, such as Hazor and Megiddo — 
and even Gezer, after Pharaoh had 
turned the city over to Solomon (as a 
dowry for his daughter, who became 
Solomon’s wife). Indeed the mainte- 
nance of corvee labor on the part of 
Israelite citizens may have continued 
intermittently until the close of Solo- 
mon’s reign, for while it uses the word 
sebel rather than mas, 1 1 :28 mentions 
that Jeroboam was originally a super- 
visor or foreman of such a “burden- 


199 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


bearing” force for the “house of Jo- 
seph” (which presumably included 
Manasseh as well as Ephraim). Per- 
haps Solomon resorted to this system 
of corvee for Israelite citizens as the 
building operations progressed and as 
his own original high principles suf- 
fered eclipse under the pressure of 
his ambitious goals. 

In the light of his dealings with Bathsheba 
and her husband, Uriah, how could David 
be regarded by the Lord as a servant 
whose heart was “perfect” before Him (cf. 
I Kings 11:4; 15:3; Acts 13:22)? (D*) 

Even before David became king of 
Israel, he had committed several sins 
and offenses to his discredit. His de- 
ception of the high priest Ahimelech 
resulted in the massacre of nearly 
every priest in the city of Nob by the 
agents of King Saul, even though they 
were completely unaware of David’s 
status as a wanted fugitive (1 Sam. 
21-22). Later on, as a vassal of King 
Achish of Gath, David systematically 
deceived him as to the various tribes 
and communities his warriors had 
raided in their forays from Ziklag; and 
he was willing to put every one of his 
victims to death in order to keep the 
truth about his activities from getting 
back to Achish (1 Sam. 27:8-12). His 
affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, 
and the subsequent cover-up that he 
engineered by having Uriah killed in 
battle before the walls of Rabbath 
Ammon (2 Sam. 1 1) were by no means 
the only shameful blots on his record, 
even though they are doubtless the 
best known. 

From these considerations it is quite 
apparent that David did not gain God’s 
favor or approval because of a sinless 
life. Although his conduct was for the 
most part exemplary and his courage 
and ability as a leader beyond compari- 
son, it was not because of these things 
that he especially pleased God. It was 
rather because of his tremendous faith 


in the power and grace of God that his 
heart was adjudged to be salem (kjv, 
“perfect”; nasb, “wholly devoted”; niv, 
“fully devoted”) with Yahweh his God 
(1 Kings 11:4; 15:3). The adjective 
salem basically means “complete, 
whole, sound, Finished” or even “at 
peace with [‘mb] someone.” (The word 
is cognate with salom, “peace, welfare.”) 
That is, David’s heart was all there for 
God, and God was his very reason for 
living. Many of his psalms eloquently 
express his deep attachment to the 
Lord, his joy in fellowship with God, 
and his complete trust in His redeem- 
ing power. 

Furthermore, David could never 
remain out of fellowship with God for 
very long. Psalm 32 reveals what un- 
bearable agony he went through after 
the affair with Bathsheba, until Finally 
the prophet Nathan came to him and 
condemned his crimes in the name of 
Yahweh (2 Sam. 12:7-10). A lesser 
man would have flared up against this 
daring prophet and had him put to 
death. But one of the greatest assets in 
David’s character was his ability to re- 
ceive rebuke, to acknowledge his utter 
sinfulness (cf. Ps. 51:3-5), and to cast 
himself on the mercy of God to forgive 
him, cleanse him, and restore him to 
holy fellowship once more. 

The believer who can face guilt and 
failure in the way David did is in a pro- 
found sense a man after God’s own 
heart — the kind that God told Samuel 
He was going to look for after Saul had 
forfeited favor by his disobedience (1 
Sam. 13:14). David was that kind of a 
son and servant to the Lord; he was an 
’is kil e babd (“a man according to His 
heart”). As such he became a model for 
all believers to follow, in regard to 
wholehearted commitment to pleasing 
the Lord, obeying His word, and fur- 
thering the cause of His kingdom on 
earth. God could trust him with great 
responsibility and consistent victory 
on the battlefield because David’s 
central purpose was to glorify God, 


200 


I KINGS 


not to glorify or please himself. Re- 
calling these dominant trails in David’s 
life, the apostle Paul commended him 
to the congregation in Antioch Pisidiae, 
saying: “And after He had removed 
him [Saul], He raised up David to 
be their king, concerning whom He 
also testified and said, ‘I have found 
David the son of Jesse, a man after 
My heart [kata ten kardiati mou ], who 
will do all My will” (Acts 13:22, nasb). 

The glory of God, the will of God, 
and the loving fellowship of God were 
what mattered most to King David, 
even though there were temporary 
lapses in that relationship. But even 
after he had fallen into sin and failure, 
David knew how to trust God’s grace 
and forgiving love enough to confess 
and forsake his iniquity in an attitude 
of true repentance so as to get back in 
step with the Lord on the highway of 
holiness. Such a believer is certain to 
be a man or woman after God’s own 
heart! 

Was Elijah’s prediction of the dogs’ lick- 
ing up Ahab’s blood at Jezreel really ful- 
filled by the Pool of Samaria? 

First Kings 21:19 reads: “Thus says 
the Lord, ‘Have you murdered, and 
also taken possession?’ . . . Thus says 
the Lord, ‘In the place where the dogs 
licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs 
shall lick up your blood, even yours’ ” 
(nasb). But in the record of the fulfill- 
ment of this sentence of doom, which 
occurs in 1 Kings 22:37-38, we read: 
“So the king died and was brought to 
Samaria, and they buried the king in 
Samaria. And they washed the chariot 
by the pool of Samaria [Ifre-ka-t sonfron], 
and the dogs licked up his blood . . . 
according to the word of the Lord 
which He spoke” (nasb). The licking 
up of Ahab’s blood by dogs is certainly 
confirmed by this narration. But what 
about the detail “in this place where 
the dogs licked up the blood of Na- 
both”? The Hebrew text lays stress on 


the very spot: “where the dogs licked 
up” ( bim'qom ’ n ser lacfqu hakk'labim) 
Naboth’s blood (21:19). This calls for 
further investigation. 

Where was Naboth stoned to death 
by the two false witnesses and the mob 
that accompanied them? Could it have 
been by a pool located just outside the 
city of Samaria? This is barely conceiv- 
able; but it hardly seems likely, in view 
of the circumstances surrounding the 
whole transaction of Ahab’s offer to 
Naboth outside of Jezreel (21:2-3), 
which met with Naboth’s refusal. 
Jezebel sent orders “to the elders and 
to the nobles who were living with 
Naboth in his city.” In all probability 
Naboth was tried and convicted on a 
trumped-up charge of blasphemy in 
the city square of Jezreel itself, and he 
was then led to a place just outside the 
city wall of Jezreel; so it must have 
been there (rather than in Samaria, 
which was many miles distant) that his 
innocent blood was spilled. Yet this is 
not actually stated in so many words. 

If Naboth’s accusers had taken 
Naboth “outside of the city” of Jezreel, 
they may have carried him all the way 
to Samaria in order to hold his execu- 
tion by stoning right outside the capital 
of the kingdom of Israel, at the pool 
just outside the city wall. Nevertheless 
this would have been an exceptional 
procedure according to Old Testa- 
ment law. Normally a punishment or 
execution was inflicted on an offender 
in the same jurisdiction as his crime 
was committed. (Yet this was not invar- 
iably the case. Joshua 7:24 records that 
Achan, whose theft of spoil from the 
accursed city of Jericho took place at 
Jericho itself, was not stoned to death 
outside Jericho but rather in the valley 
of Achor [which seems to have been 
part of the Wadi Qilt, at some distance 
from Tell el-Sultan, Old Testament 
Jericho], a site fairly removed from the 
scene of the crime.) 

There remains one other intriguing 
possibility, as we study the probable 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


route traveled by Ahab’s henchmen 
during their retreat from the disaster 
at Ramoth-gilead. They would almost 
certainly have crossed the Jordan just 
below Beth-shan and then made their 
way in a west-northwesterly direction 
until coming to the summer capital of 
Jezreel, just beyond which they would 
have to take the highway leading 
through the pass through the Esdraelon 
range. By the time they reached Jez- 
reel, with their melancholy task of 
interring Ahab’s corpse in the cemetery 
of Samaria after their arrival there, 
they may well have decided to wash 
off his chariot before it entered Sam- 
aria itself. By that time his dried 
gore must have been quite malodorous 
and disfiguring to the appearance 
of the royal chariot — which presum- 
ably would have been part of the later 
funeral procession. A pool outside 
Jezreel would have been most con- 
venient for their purpose. But how 
could a pool at Jezreel have been called 
“the Pool of Samaria”? Perhaps in the 
planning of this new summer palace 
and its adjacent landscaping, Ahab and 
Jezebel decided that a pool would en- 
hance the beauty of the grounds. They 
might well have called it “Samaria 
Pool” in honor of the regular capital 
city (founded by Ahab’s father, Omri), 
which would serve as the seat of gov- 
ernment during the cooler seasons of 
the year. 

Not all pools connected with ancient 
Near Eastern cities bore the name of 
the city itself, particularly if there was 
an older pool already in existence. In 
Jerusalem, for example, there were the 
Pool of Siloarn, the Pool of Bethesda 
(Beth-zatha), the King’s Pool, and the 
Pool of Shelah. Since the “Pool of Sam- 
aria” here mentioned was one at which 
the city’s prostitutes normally bathed 
(1 Kings 22:38), it was probably not the 
only pool in use, but only a later pool, 
constructed by the landscapers con- 
nected with the summer palace. It is 
therefore reasonable to infer that there 


was another pool known as the Pool of 
Jezreel, intended for the general public 
of Jezreel itself. Hence Ahab’s palace 
pool, if such there was, would have to 
have borne some other name. What, 
then, would have been more appropri- 
ate than the name of the national cap- 
ital, where Ahab resided in his ivory- 
inlaid palace for the greater part of 
the year? 

Is there not a contradiction between I 
Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 20, as to 
Jehoshaphat’s ill-fated fleet at Ezion- 
geber? 

First Kings 22:48 agrees with 2 
Chronicles 20:35-36 that a fleet of 
ocean-going merchantmen (“ships of 
Tarshish”) was constructed at the Red 
Sea port of Ezion-geber, for the pur- 
pose of engaging in trade with 
Ophir — a trade that Solomon had 
found very profitable back in the pre- 
vious century ( 1 Kings 9:28). They also 
agree that Ahaziah the son of Ahab, 
king of Israel, was somehow involved 
in this venture. Apparently the plan 
originally agreed on by both rulers (2 
Chron. 20:35-36) was that this would 
be a joint commercial venture, with 
both the costs and the profits to be 
shared by both governments. First 
Kings 22:49 says: “Then Ahaziah the 
son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Let 
my servants go with your servants in 
the ships.’ But Jehoshaphat was not 
willing” (nasb). But 2 Chronicles 
20:35-36 contributes the interesting 
information that Jehoshaphat actually 
was at first quite willing for Ahaziah to 
join with him in this undertaking, even 
though it was wrong for him to act in 
partnership with a degenerate Baal- 
worshiper like the son of Ahab and 
Jezebel. It was only under the pressure 
of the prophet Eliezer son of Do- 
davahu, who denounced the alli- 
ance as highly displeasing to God, 
that Jehoshaphat finally backed away 
from the agreement. Second Chroni- 


202 


1 KINGS 


cles 20:37 tells us that Eliezer pre- 
dicted that Yahweh would destroy all 
the ships that Jehoshaphat had built, 
and then the Lord apparently pro- 
ceeded to do so by sending a violent 
storm on the harbor of Ezion-geber. 

There is really no basic contradiction 
between the two accounts, even though 
there is perhaps a difference in em- 
phasis. But we still cannot be quite cer- 


tain whether Jehoshaphat notified 
Ahaziah that the deal was off at some 
time before the storm struck or 
whether it was after it had smashed up 
the ships. In the latter case, the only 
thing that Jehoshaphat could have ve- 
toed, so far as Ahaziah was concerned, 
was a project to attempt a rebuilding of 
the ruined fleet as a joint venture for a 
second time. 


J 


203 


2 Kings 


When did Jehoram son of Ahab begin his 
reign? 

Second Kings 1:17 states that Je- 
horam, Ahab’s younger son, began 
his reign as king of Israel in the second 
year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, 
king of Judah. (Quite confusing is this 
appearance of identical names among 
the children of both Ahab of Israel and 
Jehoshaphat of Judah, but apparently 
their treaty of alliance and friendship 
extended even to the naming of their 
children!) This appears to be in con- 
flict with the notation in 2 Kings 3:1, 
that Jehoram ben Ahab became king in 
the “eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat.” 
But the discrepancy arises from the 
fact that just prior to joining Ahab in 
the unsuccessful attempt to recap- 
ture Ramoth-gilead from the Syrians, 
Jehoshaphat took the precaution to 
have his son Jehoram installed as co- 
regent on the throne of Judah. 

In the battle of Ramoth-gilead, in 
which Ahab was fatally wounded by an 
arrow (1 Kings 22:34-35), Jehosha- 
phat himself nearly lost his life; so 
his foresight was well grounded. But 
Jehoram began his reign as coregent 
in that year, 853 b.c. Yet Jehosha- 
phat lived on until 848, five years 
later. Thus it came about that the 
second year of Jehoram ben Jehosha- 
phat was 851-850. It was also the 
eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat (who 
began to reign in 869-868 as sole 


king, that being the year when his 
father Asa died). Since Jehoram ben 
Ahab ascended the throne of Israel in 
850, both synchronisms were correct: 
the second year of Jehoram ben 
Jehoshaphat was the same as the 
eighteenth of Jehoshaphat. 

It should be pointed out in this con- 
nection that this precedent for install- 
ing the crown prince as coregent in his 
father’s lifetime was followed at least 
six times in the course of the Judean 
monarchy: (1) Asa died in 869, but his 
son Jehoshaphat became coregent in 
872 (making three or four years of 
coregency); (2) Jehoshaphat died in 
848, but his son Jehoram became co- 
regent in 853; (3) Amaziah died in 767, 
but his son Azariah (or Uzziah, as he is 
variously known) became coregent in 
790 (possibly when Amaziah was taken 
captive to Israel by Jehoash ben 
Jehoahaz, king of Israel); (4) Uzziah 
died in 739, but his son Jotham became 
coregent in 751 (when his father was 
stricken with leprosy); (5) Jotham died 
in 736 or 735, but his son Ahaz became 
coregent in 743; (6) Ahaz died in 725, 
but his son Hezekiah became coregent 
in 728. From the technical legal 
standpoint, Jehoiachin was the senior 
king of Judah from 597 (Ezekiel always 
dates his prophecies by Jehoiachin’s 
regnal years); and so during the entire 
reign of his brother Zedekiah (597- 
587), the latter ruled only as coregent. 
If we bear these guidelines in mind, 


204 


2 KINGS 


many apparent confusions in the dates 
of the period of the divided monarchy 
can be readily cleared up. 

The young men who mocked Elisha be- 
cause he was bald were cursed, and forty- 
two of them were killed by two she-bears 
(2 Kings 2:23-24). How could a man of 
God curse people for such a mild personal 
offense? (D*) 

A careful study of this incident in 
context shows that it was far more seri- 
ous than a “mild personal offense.” 
It was a situation of serious public 
danger, quite as grave as the large 
youth gangs that roam the ghetto sec- 
tions of our modern American cities. If 
these young hoodlums were ranging 
about in packs of fifty or more, deri- 
sive toward respectable adults and 
ready to mock even a well-known man 
of God, there is no telling what vio- 
lence they might have inflicted on the 
citizenry of the religious center of the 
kingdom of Israel (as Bethel was), had 
they been allowed to continue their 
riotous course. Perhaps it was for this 
reason that God saw fit to put forty- 
two of them to death in this spectacular 
fashion (there is no evidence that 
Elisha himself, in imposing a curse, 
prayed for this specific mode of 
punishment), in order to strike terror 
into other youth gangs that were in- 
festing the city and to make them 
realize that neither Yahweh Himself 
nor any of His anointed prophets 
were to be threatened or treated with 
contempt. 

Certainly from that time on, the 
whole Israelite community became 
convinced that Elisha was a true 
prophet and that he bore an authorita- 
tive word from God. Even the ungodly 
king Jehoram son of Ahab treated him 
with great deference and respect (see 
2 Kings 3:11-13) after this had taken 
place. 


Was not Elisha the prophet guilty of 
lying to the Syrian troops in 2 Kings 6:19? 

Technically Elisha’s statement to the 
foreign invaders was true in the light 
of the situation in which he made it. 
He said to the expeditionary force of 
Benhadad, sent to capture him by 
surprise, “This is not the way, nor is 
this the city; follow me and I will bring 
you to the man whom you seek” 
(nasb). While it is true that Dothan had 
been Elisha’s location the night before 
and that they had taken the right way 
to get up to Dothan, nevertheless 
neither of those facts was now true. 
Why? Because Elisha was no longer in 
Dothan; he had come out of the city to 
meet them. Therefore the way up to 
Dothan was no longer the right path 
for them to use if they wished to cap- 
ture the troublesome prophet. Thus 
he was only speaking the truth when 
he said, “This is not the way, nor is this 
the city.” It was now Elisha’s purpose 
to go in front of them down the high- 
way to Samaria, the city where he 
would remove the “blindness” (i.e., 
their inability to recognize him) from 
their eyes. Consequently the rest of his 
statement was likewise true: if they 
would follow him all the way down to 
Samaria, then he would indeed bring 
them to Elisha inside the city of 
Samaria. The following verse (v.20) 
shows how he fulfilled his promise to 
the letter. Samaria was the right city 
for them to see the prophet they had 
come to capture. But unfortunately for 
them, when they did get into Samaria, 
they saw their hoped-for quarry sur- 
rounded by the regimental troops of 
the king of Israel; and it was the Syr- 
ians who were taken prisoner. 

This delightful episode certainly 
does record the complete discomfiture 
of the foreign invaders by a super- 
natural blindness cast on them by the 
Lord (somewhat like the blindness sent 
on the Sodomites who riotously at- 


205 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


tempted to break down the door to 
Lot’s house [Gen. 19:11]). But it is not 
really justified to call Elisha’s statement 
a lie, for every part of it was technically 
correct. Nowhere does he actually say, 
“I am not the man you are looking 
for.” He only said that he would lead 
them to that man in the city where they 
would find him (as soon as he got 
there). 

When did Ahaziah ben Jehoram become 
king? 

Second Kings 8:25 says that Ahaziah 
son of Jehoram of Judah became king 
in the twelfth year of Jehoram son of 
Ahab of Israel. Yet in 2 Kings 9:29 it is 
stated that it was in his eleventh year. 
Which is right? Is there not a discrep- 
ancy of one year? 

The answer is that Ahaziah ben 
Jehoram became king in 841 b.c., 
which according to the nonaccession- 
year system came out to Jehoram ben 
Ahab’s twelfth year, but according to 
the accession-year system was his 
eleventh year. In 2 Kings 8:25 the 
nonaccession-year system was used, 
but in 2 Kings 9:29 it was the 
accession-year system that was fol- 
lowed. Confusing? 

The fact of the matter is, however, 
that the Northern Kingdom followed 
the nonaccession-year system from 930 
b.c. until 798 b.c., but from 798 (the 
beginning of the reign of Jehoash ben 
Jehoahaz) till the Fall of Samaria in 
722 b.c., it switched to the accession- 
year system. The southern kingdom, 
on the other hand, used the 
accession-year system from 930 until 
the beginning of the reign of Jehoram 
ben Jehoshaphat (848-841), or possi- 
bly a couple of years earlier, in 850 
b.c., before Jehoshaphat died. Around 
850 the southern kingdom of Judah 
switched to the nonaccession-year sys- 
tem and stayed on it until the end of 
the reign of Joash ben Ahaziah (835- 
796) — when it finally reverted to the 


accession-year system (i.e., the first of- 
ficial regnal year did not begin until 
New Year’s Day of the year follow- 
ing the year when the new king came 
to the throne). Therefore, by the 
accession-year system, what was the 
eleventh year of Jehoram was the 
twelfth year by the nonaccession-year 
system, i.e., 841 b.c. No discrepancy! 

How old was Ahaziah when he began to 
reign (cf. 2 Kings 8:26 with 2 Chron. 22:2) 
and Jehoiachin when he began to reign 
(cf. 2 Kings 24:8 with 2 Chron. 36:9-10)? 

Copyists were prone to making two 
types of scribal errors. One concerned 
the spelling of proper names (espe- 
cially unfamiliar proper names), and 
the other had to do with numbers. 
Ideally, we might have wished that the 
Holy Spirit had restrained all copyists 
of Scripture over the centuries from 
making mistakes of any kind; but an 
errorless copy would have required a 
miracle, and this was not the way it 
worked out. 

It is beyond the capability of anyone 
to avoid any and every slip of the pen 
in copying page after page from any 
book — sacred or secular. Yet we may 
be sure that the original manuscript of 
each book of the Bible, being directly 
inspired by God, was free from all er- 
ror. It is also true that no well-attested 
variation in the manuscript copies that 
have come down to us alter any doc- 
trine of the Bible. To this extent, at 
least, the Holy Spirit has exercised a 
restraining influence in superintend- 
ing the transmission of the text. 

These two examples of numerical 
discrepancy have to do with the decade 
in the number given. In 2 Chronicles 
22:2 Ahaziah is said to have been 
forty-two; in 2 Kings 8:26 he is said to 
have been twenty-two. Fortunately 
there is enough additional information 
in the biblical text to show that the cor- 
rect number is twenty-two. Second 
Kings 8:17 tells us that Ahaziah’s 


206 


2 KINGS 


father Joram ben Ahab was thirty-two 
when he became king, and he died 
eight years later, at the age of forty. 
Therefore Ahaziah could not have 
been forty-two at the time of his 
father’s death at age forty! 

Similar is the case of Jehoiachin, 
whose age at accession is given by 
2 Chronicles 36:9-10 as eight but by 
2 Kings 24:8 as eighteen. There is 
enough information in the context to 
show that eight is wrong and eighteen 
is right. That is to say, Jehoiachin 
reigned only three months; yet he was 
obviously a responsible adult at the 
time, for he “did what was evil in the 
sight of the Lord” and was judged for 
it. 

Observe that in each case it is 
the decade number that varies. In 
Ahaziah’s case it is forty-two as against 
twenty-two. In Jehoiachin’s case it was 
eight as against eighteen. It is instruc- 
tive to observe that the number nota- 
tion used by the Jewish settlers in the 
Elephantine in the time of Ezra and 
Nehemiah (fortunately we have a large 
file of documents in papyrus from this 
source) consisted of horizontal hooks 
to represent decades. Thus eight 
wo uld be^ III IIII, but eighteen would 
be /III IIII. Similarly twenty-two would 
be I — ^ , but forty-two would be 
/I — - = • If, then, the manuscript 
being copied out was blurred or 
smudged, one or more of the decade 
notations could be missed by the copyist. 

The same was probably the case with 
the date of Sennacherib’s invasion of 
Judah in 701 b.c. This is stated in 
2 Kings 18:13 to have occurred in the 
“fourteenth” year of Hezekiah, which 
implies that Hezekiah must have 
begun his reign in 715. Yet the other 
six references to Hezekiah’s chronol- 
ogy in 2 Kings make it clear that he was 
crowned as assistant king in 728 and 
became sole king in 725. Since Sen- 
nacherib did not become king in As- 
syria until 705 and the invasion oc- 
curred in the fourth year of his reign, 


the 701 date for the invasion is abso- 
lutely certain. Therefore we are to 
understand the “fourteen” in 2 Kings 
18:13 as a miscopying of an original 
“twenty-four.” The difference in the 
Hebrew notation would have been as 
follows: fourteen^ was /f3, and 
twenty-four was^jg . A blurred manu- 
script probably confused the scribe of 
Isaiah 36:1, who originated the error; 
and it may have been that the later 
scribe of 2 Kings 18 was so impressed 
by the number fourteen with which he 
was familiar in the Isaiah text that he 
decided to “correct” v.13 to conform 
with it. At least that is the likeliest ex- 
planation I know of. (See also the dis- 
cussion of Sennacherib’s invasion in 
Hezekiah’s fourteenth year at 2 Kings 
18:13.) 8 

How could God commission Jehu to de- 
stroy the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:6-10; 
10:30) and then later condemn him for the 
bloodshed (Hos. 1:4)? 

There can be no question that Jehu 
fully carried out the commission he re- 
ceived from the Lord: "You shall strike 
the house of Ahab your master, that I 
may avenge the blood of My servants 
the prophets, and the blood of all the 
servants of the Lord, at the hand of 
Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab 
shall perish” (2 Kings 9:7-8, nasb). 
After Jehu, racing back from Ramoth 
Gilead to Jezreel, shot King Jehoram 
dead, and Ahaziah of Judah as well 
(for he was the grandson of Jezebel), 
he then proceeded to the city of 
Samaria and intimidated the elders of 
that city into decapitating all seventy of 
Ahab’s sons who were living in the 
palace (2 Kings 10:1-10). Not long 
after that he managed to lure all the 
Baal-worshiping leaders of Israel into 
the temple of Baal on the pretext of 
leading them in a great celebration of 
worship there. Once they were locked 
up inside the temple itself, he had 
them all massacred by his troops and 


207 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


destroyed the entire building, dese- 
crating it in such a way that it could 
never be used for worship again 
(vv. 18-27). 

It was after Jehu had carried out all 
these stern measures for the suppres- 
sion of idolatry in Israel that the com- 
mendation came to him from the 
Lord: “Because you have done well in 
executing what is right in My eyes, and 
have done to the house of Ahab ac- 
cording to all that was in My heart, 
your sons of the fourth generation 
shall sit on the throne of Israel” (2 
Kings 10:30, nasb). Jehu had served as 
God’s executioner on behalf of the 
many hundreds of prophets of the Lord 
whom Jezebel and Ahab put to death 
(1 Kings 18:4,13), and he had taken the 
most thorough means of suppressing 
the soul-destroying curse of idolatry. 
Therefore he would be granted secu- 
rity on his throne, and his descendants 
after him unto “the fourth generation” 
(i.e., Jehoahaz 814-798, Jehoash 798- 
782, Jeroboam II 793-753, and Zech- 
ariah, who was assassinated within 
a few months of his accession in 752). 

In the course of his own career, 
however, Jehu did not enjoy a great 
deal of success as a ruler or defender 
of his country. The Black Obelisk of 
Shalmaneser III of Assyria depicts 
Jehu “the son of Omri [sic!]” prostrate 
before the invader and paying him 
tribute as his vassal (cf. Pritchard, 
ANET, p. 281), in connection with an 
expedition against Benhadad of Da- 
mascus and the Phoenician cities of 
Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre. But 2 Kings 
10:33 indicates that even before that 
invasion by Assyria (in the twenty-first 
year of Shalmaneser, which would 
have been about 832 b.c.), Jehu had 
lost all Transjordanian Manasseh, 
Gad, and Reuben (which later had for 
the most part been conquered by Moab 
under King Mesha) to King Hazael of 
Damascus. His son Jehoahaz (814-798) 
was reduced to complete vassalage by 
Hazael and his son Benhadad II (2 


Kings 13:1-3). But Jehoash (798-782) 
was allowed by the Lord to expel the 
Syrians in three decisive engagements 
(v. 1 9) and also to crush the pretensions 
of King Amaziah of J udah in the Battle 
of Bethshemesh (14:13), with a result- 
ant spoliation of Jerusalem itself. But 
it was Jehu’s great-grandson Jeroboam 
II who achieved very great success 
on the battlefield, for he regained pos- 
session of the Transjordanian tribal 
territory and all the area formerly 
ruled over by Jeroboam I — just as 
the prophet Jonah had predicted 
(vv. 25-27). 

On what basis, then, did the prophet 
Hosea proclaim the judgment of the 
Lord on the dynasty of Jehu (Hos. 
1:4-5)? It was because of the impure 
motive with which Jehu himself had 
carried out his commission from 
Yahweh to blot out the race of Ahab. 
Although Jehu had only done what 
God had commanded, he did so out of 
a carnal zeal that was tainted with pro- 
tective self-interest. Second Kings 
10:29 says of him: “However, as for 
the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, 
[by] which he made Israel sin, from 
these Jehu did not depart, even the 
golden calves that were at Bethel and 
... Dan” (nasb). But v.31 goes on to 
say: “But Jehu was not careful to walk 
in the law of the Lord, the God of Is- 
rael, with all his heart; he did not de- 
part from the sins of Jeroboam, [by] 
which he made Israel sin” (nasb). This 
same mixture of motives showed up 
in Jehu’s descendants as well, for 
Jehoahaz “did evil in the sight of the 
Lord, and followed the sins of 
Jeroboam. ... So the anger of the 
Lord was kindled against Israel, and 
He gave them continually into the 
hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into 
the hand of Benhadad the son of 
Hazael. Then Jehoahaz entreated the 
favor of the Lord, and the Lord lis- 
tened to him” (2 Kings 13:1-4; nasb). 

Jehoash, Jehoahaz’s son, did not do 
much better; for he too followed his 


208 


2 KINGS 


father’s evil example (2 Kings 13:11), 
even though he did retain a respect- 
ful relationship with the prophet 
Elisha (vv. 14-19). And even though 
Jeroboam II enjoyed such remarkable 
success in war (14:25) and had a long 
reign of forty-one years (v.23) — i.e., 
from 793-782 as viceroy under his 
father, and 782-753 as sole king — yet 
his relationship toward the Lord was 
no better than his father’s. “He did evil 
in the sight of the Lord; he did not 
depart from all the sins of Jeroboam 
the son of Nebat, [with] which he made 
Israel sin” (v.24; nasb). The whole 
prophecy of Amos, especially Amos 
2:6-16; 4:1; 5:5-13; 6:1-8, is a com- 
mentary on the corruption of govern- 
ment, society, and personal morality 
that prevailed in the Northern King- 
dom during Jeroboam’s reign. (Amos’s 
ministry came “two years before the 
earthquake” [1:1], in the reign of Uz- 
ziah of Judah. This must have been 
some time between 760 and 755.) 

The important principle set forth in 
Hosea 1:4 was that when blood is shed, 
even in the service of God and in 
obedience to His command, blood- 
guiltiness attaches to God’s agent him- 
self if his motive was tainted with car- 
nal self-interest rather than by a sin- 
cere concern for the purity of the faith 
and the preservation of God’s truth 
(such as, for example, animated Elijah 
when he had the 450 prophets of 
Baal put to death after the contest 
with them on Mount Carmel). The 
“bloodshed of Jezreel” was finally 
visited on the house of Jehu when his 
great-great-grandson Zechariah was 
murdered at his own birthday party by 
his trusted chariot captain Shallum 
(2 Kings 15:10). 

Did Pekah really rule over Samaria for 
twenty years? 

Second Kings 15:27 states that 
“Pekah son of Remaliah became king 
over Israel in Samaria — twenty years.” 


(nasb inserts “and reigned” in italics 
before “twenty years.”) This raises an 
apparent difficulty because he did not 
establish his headquarters in Samaria 
itself until 739 b.c., when he assassi- 
nated King Pekahiah son of Menahem 
(15:25). Since he in turn was assassi- 
nated by Hoshea in 732, Pekah would 
appear to have reigned only eight 
years in Samaria rather than twenty. 

To understand the basis for the 
“twenty years,” we must go back to the 
coup d’etat of 752, when Zechariah son 
of Jeroboam II was murdered by an 
army commander named Shallum. 
Shallum, however, lasted for only one 
month on the throne; for he was de- 
feated by Menahem, who launched an 
invasion of Samaria from the city of 
Tirzah (2 Kings 15:8-16). Menahem 
succeeded in buying off the Assyrian 
invader Tiglath-pileser III, who came 
against Israel sometime after 745. 
After a large tribute was given to 
Assyria, Tiglath-pileser “confirmed” 
Menahem in office as his vassal-king 
(v.19). Possibly he felt he needed As- 
syrian support because he was facing 
opposition within his own kingdom. 
And indeed he was, for Pekah son of 
Remaliah had apparently laid claim to 
the throne of Israel back in 752, the 
year of Zechariah’s assassination; and 
he established his headquarters in 
Gilead, ruling over most of the East 
Bank territory of the Israelite king- 
dom. Apparently Pekah held out 
against Menahem until Menahem died 
in 742. Then he must have entered 
into a treaty of reconciliation with 
Menahem’s son and successor, Peka- 
hiah, according to the terms of which 
Pekah received a command in the 
army headquarters in Samaria. He 
then conspired with fifty of his trusted 
supporters from Gilead and murdered 
Pekahiah in his palace. Then, of 
course, Pekah had himself proclaimed 
king. 

How then is the interval of “twenty 
years” to be justified? It was simply the 


209 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


official position of Pekah’s government 
that after Zechariah (or Shallum) was 
murdered, Pekah became the only law- 
ful king over Israel. To be sure, he was 
unable to dislodge Menahem from the 
West Bank; but still, as the only legiti- 
mate king of Israel (in his own opinion, 
at least), his right to Samaria as capital 
of the kingdom was ipso facto estab- 
lished. He finally took up official resi- 
dence in Samaria (after the coup d’etat 
against Pekahiah) from 740 or 739, but 
his reign in Samaria was theoretically 
computed from 752, when he first as- 
serted his right to the throne. 

Are there not historical inaccuracies in 
Kings and Chronicles, such as “So, king 
of Egypt” and “Zerah the Ethiopian,” of 
whom there is no record in secular sources 
(cf. 2 Kings 17; 2 Chron. 14)? 

The plainest and shortest answer to 
this question is that there are no proven 
inaccuracies in any of the historical 
records in Scripture. The second ob- 
servation to make is that if a historical 
statement in the Bible is factually true, 
it does not require any corroboration 
from secular sources to become true. 
This is a basic canon of logic. Un- 
doubtedly there are multitudes of 
events that have taken place in earlier 
times that have never been recorded 
either in sacred or secular written 
sources. They nevertheless actually 
took place, even though they were not 
recorded. And if an event was re- 
corded only in a nonscriptural docu- 
ment, it needs no attestation from 
Scripture to preserve it from being a 
non-event. And, of course, the reverse 
is true. An episode that actually took 
place became a fact of history whether 
or not it was recorded in an extrabibli- 
cal source. 

The only way to justify skepticism of 
scriptural veracity when it records 
names or events not found in extant 
secular accounts is to establish that the 
Bible is demonstrably inferior to all 


other ancient sources in the matter of 
its trustworthiness. To assume that the 
failure up until now to find a mention 
of Zerah or So in any pagan document 
proves that they never existed is to fall 
into a blatant non sequitur quite un- 
worthy of true scholarship. Those who 
follow such a criterion in their han- 
dling of scriptural testimony should be 
reminded that the number of such un- 
verified names and events has been 
sharply reduced by the archaeological 
discoveries of the last 150 years. Back 
in 1850, for example, many learned 
scholars were confidently denying the 
historicity of the Hittites and the Hor- 
ites of Sargon II of Assyria and Bel- 
shazzar of Chaldean Babylon, or even 
of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet all of 
these have more recently become ac- 
cepted by the scholarly world because 
of their appearance in ancient docu- 
ments discovered within the last fifteen 
decades of archaeological investiga- 
tion. 

The skeptical approach toward the 
historical statements of Scripture has 
thus been proven to be completely un- 
justified. This furnishes strong evi- 
dence that the cynical suspicion toward 
the Bible’s accuracy is basically un- 
founded and that a far sounder ap- 
proach — considering the excellent 
record of Bible history in the light of 
archaeological discovery — would be to 
assume that any biblical notice is ac- 
curate and dependable until proven 
false. Up until now, so far as this 
writer is aware, there is no biblical 
record that has ever been proven false 
by any evidence exhumed by the exca- 
vator’s spade. 

It is not altogether certain that So 
(So’), the king mentioned in 2 Kings 
17:4 as a potential ally of Hoshea of 
Samaria, during the final years of its 
existence in the 720s b.c., is the name 
of a king at all. The Hebrew text could 
be translated as follows: “He [i.e., 
‘Hoshea’] sent to Sais [the name of the 
Egyptian capital city at that time], the 


210 


2 KINCS 


king of Egypt.” During that time the 
king of Egypt was named Tefnakht 
(ca. 730-720) and he made his head- 
quarters in Sais. (This is suggested by 
K.A. Kitchen in his article on “So” in 
J.D. Douglas, ed., New Bible Dictionary 
[Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962], 

p. 1201.) 

It is true that no mention of Zerah 
the Ethiopian (Heb., kusi) has yet 
turned up in any ancient text outside 
the Bible itself (2 Chron. 14:9-15). 
Apparently he was not a reigning 
monarch of Egypt during the time of 
King Asa of Judah (910-869), since 
none of the Egyptian rulers bore 
such a name during that period. K.A. 
Kitchen (The Third Intermediate Period 
in Egypt [Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 
1973]) estimates the date of the Battle 
of Mareshah to be about 897 b.c., 
which would have been the twenty- 
eighth year of Pharaoh Osorkon I 
(who was of a Libyan dynasty rather 
than a Cushite). But Kitchen (ibid., p. 
309) says: “By 897 b.c. Osorkon I was 
already an old man, and so he may well 
have sent a general of Nubian [or 
Cushite] extraction to lead a force into 

Palestine However, Zerah proved 

no match for the Judean king, and so 
we have no trace of a triumphal relief 
of Osorkon to adorn anew the temple 
walls of Egypt” — as Osorkon’s father, 
Sheshonq (Shishak) had done back in 
the days of Rehoboam. 

How could Sennacherib’s invasion have 
occurred in the fourteenth year of 
Hezekiah? 

Second Kings 18:13 in the Masoretic 
text states: “Now in the fourteenth 
year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib 
king of Assyria came up against all the 
fortified cities of Judah and seized 
them.” Since Sennacherib’s own record 
in the Taylor Prism establishes 701 b.c. 
as the date of that invasion, the four- 
teenth year of Hezekiah would mean 
that he did not ascend the throne until 


715 b.c. Yet 2 Kings 18:1 (the very 
same chapter, be it noted) states that 
Hezekiah became king in the third 
year of Hoshea king of Israel — which 
comes out to 729 or 728. This would 
have been the year in which he was 
crowned as subordinate king, under 
his father Ahaz (who did not die until 
725). The Masoretic text of 2 Kings 
18:13 therefore stands in clear con- 
tradiction to 18:1,9, and 10, which 
confirm that Hezekiah’s fourth year 
was Hoshea’s seventh and that 
Hezekiah’s sixth was Hoshea’s ninth 
(i.e., 722 b.c.). We must therefore con- 
clude that the Masoretic text has pre- 
served an early textual error (which 
also appears in Isa. 36:1 — where the 
error probably originated), in which a 
mistake was made in the decade col- 
umn. The word “fourteen” was origi- 
nally “twenty-four.” (For further de- 
tails, see the articles on 2 Kings 8:24 
and on Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Com- 
pare also my Survey of Old Testament 
Introduction, pp. 291-92, and E.J. 
Young, Book of Isaiah: New International 
Commentary, 2 vols. [Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1969], 2:540-42.) 

In 2 Kings 29:8-11 and Isaiah 38:8, how 
was it possible for the shadow on the 
stairway of Ahaz to retreat by ten steps? 

Obviously this phenomenon, asked 
for by Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:10), prayed 
for by the prophet Isaiah (v.ll), and 
graciously granted by the Lord (Isa. 
38:7-8) in answer to his prayer, was 
intended as a miraculous confirmation 
of God’s promise to heal Hezekiah 
of his potentially fatal carbuncle or 
cancer after he had previously been 
warned that he had not long to live. 
Had it been some unusual occurrence 
that could be explained by the laws of 
astronomy or meteorology, it could 
hardly have served as a God-given sign 
of the imminent fulfillment of a dif- 
ficult promise. Conceivably there 
might have been some extraordinary 


211 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


intervention of a cool, moisture-laden 
stratum in the sky that caused an un- 
usual refraction of the sun’s rays; but 
the precise timing of such a condition 
to coincide with Hezekiah’s request 
and Isaiah’s prayer would have itself 
constituted a miraculous event. Would 
it really have been difficult, however, 
for a God who had already created the 
entire universe of matter out of non- 
matter to do a thing like this simply by 
the word of His power? Obviously not! 

How could the embassy from Merodach- 
baladan have come to Hezekiah after 
701 b.c., if by that time Merodach-baladan 
had been expelled from Babylon (2 Kings 
20:12-15)? 

Merodach-baladan (or Marduk-apa- 
iddin, as it is spelled in cuneiform) was 
in secure control of Babylon from 
721-710. If Hezekiah’s illness oc- 
curred fifteen years before his death in 
698 or 696 (as it is variously reckoned), 
then it must have occurred in 712 or 
711 B.c. This coincides very well with a 
diplomatic approach on the part of the 
king of Babylon (who was technically a 
vassal of the king of Assyria) Sargon II 
(722-705), to organize an east-west en- 
tente cordiale against the Assyrian over- 
lord. If we place Hezekiah’s illness 
back in that period rather than after 
the Sennacherib invasion of 701, then 
the embassy from Babylon fits in very 
well with the chronology of Hezekiah. 

But how can we date Hezekiah’s ill- 
ness before the Assyrian invasion of 
Judah in 701? Is it not narrated in 
Isaiah after the invasion is over? Does 
not the introductory phrase “In those 
days” (Isa. 38:1) refer to the episode 
just narrated in chapter 37, which tells 
how the angel of the Lord took the 
lives of 185,000 Assyrian troops in a 
single night, thus compelling the 
God-defying, blaspheming Sen- 
nacherib to retreat to Nineveh without 
capturing Jerusalem? Normally we 
would be justified in making this con- 


nection, but in this particular case we 
encounter the difficulty that the last 
episode referred to in 37:38 did not 
take place until 681. Therefore a strict 
construction of “In those days” in 38:1 
would mean that Hezekiah did not be- 
come ill until 681, and that he must 
have had fifteen more years of life 
(v.5) after that. But all authorities, 
even Edwin Thiele (who mistakenly 
defers the accession of Hezekiah until 
715 b.c. [cf. his A Chronology of the He- 
brew Kings (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1977), p. 65]), accept the statement of 
2 Kings 18:2 that Hezekiah reigned 
only twenty-nine years. No authority 
has ever suggested that he reigned any 
later than 686; yet fifteen years after 
681 would come out to 666 or 665. 
Therefore “In those days” cannot be 
construed as referring to the event 
immediately preceding, namely, the 
murder of Sennacherib by his sons in 
681. 

We must understand “In those days” 
as an introductory formula for a new 
episode — e.g., “Now it came about in 
those days when Hezekiah was king 
that he became mortally ill.” Similar 
uses of this formula may be found in 
Esther 1:2 (where it introduces the ac- 
count of the king’s feast without any 
tie-in with a preceding event), in 
Judges 17:6 (“In those days there was 
no king in Israel”), likewise Judges 
18:1; 19:1. Compare also in the New 
Testament Matthew 3:1: “Now in 
those days John the Baptist came, 
preaching in the wilderness of Judea.” 
There is no clear connection with 
Matthew 2:22 (the verse immediately 
preceding), which probably refers to 
the return of the holy family from 
Egypt to Nazareth after the close of the 
reign of Herod Archelaus in a.d. 6 — at 
which time John the Baptist would 
have been only eleven years old! 

If, then, the formula "In those days” 
does not refer to the days following 
Sennacherib’s departure from Pales- 
tine in 701, what are the indications as 


212 




to the time of his illness? As we have 
already suggested, the promise of fif- 
teen more years points to a date of 
around 7 13 for his medical crisis. Since 
Hezekiah must have died sometime be- 
tween 698 and 696 (his successor, 
Manasseh, was only twelve at the time 
of his accession, and he ruled until 
642, as all authorities agree — after a 
reign of fifty-five years, according to 2 
Kings 21:1), the choice must lie with 
713 or 711 at the latest. Now Isaiah 
39:1 informs us that Merodach- 
baladan sent his embassage to Heze- 
kiah in order to congratulate him 
on his recovery from his nearly fatal 
illness. Since Merodach-baladan was 
expelled from Babylon by 710 and did 
not get back there, except very briefly 
in 704 or 703, the evidence points very 
strongly to a date of no later than 7 1 1 
for the arrival of his envoys at 
Jerusalem — subsequent to Hezekiah’s 
illness. This shows that the placement 
of Isaiah 38 after the narrative of 
Sennacherib’s invasion in chapter 37 
was due, not to chronological se- 
quence, but to a shift of topic, which 
served some other purpose in Isaiah’s 
mind than a sequential order of events. 
What could that purpose have been? 

In order to clear up this question, we 
must observe the implications of the 
prediction uttered by Isaiah after he 
transmitted God’s message to the king 
concerning his foolish pride in show- 
ing off his treasures to the Babylonian 
envoys. Isaiah 39:6 contains this omi- 
nous warning: “Behold, the days are 
coming when all that is in your house, 
and all that your fathers have laid up 
in store to this day shall be carried [off] 
to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says 
the Lord” (nasb). In view of the con- 
temporary situation, with Babylon a 
subject province under the Assyrian 
yoke, this was a very surprising 
prophecy indeed. Yet this was the 
judgment God had ordained for His 
backslidden nation, and He had re- 
vealed His plan to His prophet Isaiah. 


It would be the Babylonians, specifi- 
cally the Ghaldeans in charge of Baby- 
lon, who would finally carry out the 
sentence of total depopulation and 
exile for the disobedient people of 
Judah. From this standpoint Isaiah 39 
forms an appropriate introduction to 
chapter 40 and the subsequent chap- 
ters of Isaiah’s prophecy, all of which 
were probably composed in the reign 
of Hezekiah’s ungodly son, Manasseh. 
Chapter 40 presupposes the Babylo- 
nian captivity as a sure and settled 
prospect in store for Judah. The focus 
of attention is largely diverted from 
Assyria to the future crisis of Nebu- 
chadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem 
and deportation of the Jews, along 
with the promise of their ultimate 
restoration to their homeland after 
the Exile is over. Thus we see that 
the contents of chapter 39 make a most 
fitting introduction to chapter 40, 
since it explains the reason for the 
coming deportation to Babylon, the 
headquarters of Merodach-baladan. 

How, when, and where did Jehoiakim die? 

Second Kings 24:6 states, “So 
Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and 
Jehoiachin his son became king in his 
place” (nasb). (This suggests that this 
wicked king enjoyed a normal burial 
and was buried in a royal tomb — 
although “slept with his fathers” might 
mean simply that he joined his 
forefathers in the realm of the 
dead — Sheol.) 

Second Chronicles 36:5-8 reads: 
“Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old 
when he became king, and he reigned 
eleven years in Jerusalem. . . . Nebu- 
chadnezzar king of Babylon came up 
against him and bound him with 
bronze chains to take him to Babylon. 
Nebuchadnezzar also brought some 
of the articles of the house of the 
Lord to Babylon and put them in 
his temple in Babylon. . . . And Jehoi- 
achin his son became king in his place” 


213 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


(nasb). This could be construed to 
mean that Jehoiakim was taken off 
to Babylon as a prisoner and remained 
there the rest of his life — an event that 
would have to have occurred in 598 
B.c. (since he ruled eleven years from 
608 b.c.) Yet the text here does not 
actually say that he never returned 
from Babylon, as a chastened vassal of 
Nebuchadnezzar, having given him 
solemn promises of loyalty and assur- 
ances that he would never again team 
up with Pharaoh Necho and the Egyp- 
tians against the Chaldean overlord- 
ship. If it was the latter, then this event 
probably took place in 604 b.c., after 
Nebuchadnezzar had extended his 
rule over Syria, Phoenicia, Samaria, 
and Judah, taking with him an assort- 
ment of hostages, such as Daniel, 
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 

Just as Ashurbanipal of Assyria took 
King Manasseh from his kingdom and 
imprisoned him for a considerable 
length of time in Babylon (2 Chron. 
33:11-12), until he became repentant 
for his previous unfaithfulness to God 
and was finally restored to his throne 
by the Assyrian king, so also Jehoiakim 
was probably restored to his throne in 
Jerusalem as a chastened vassal king 
under the Chaldean overlordship. The 
Chronicles passage does not describe 
his deportation to Babylon in terms 
clearly suggestive of the downfall of 
Jerusalem in 597, when the young son 
and successor Jehoiachin was thus de- 
ported, along with “all the captains and 
all the mighty men of valor, ten thou- 
sand captives, and all the craftsmen 
and the smiths. None remained ex- 
cept the poorest people of the land” 
(2 Kings 24:14, nasb). Moreover, on 
the occasion of that second deporta- 
tion, Nebuchadnezzar did not remove 
just “some of the articles of the house 
of the Lord” (2 Chron. 36:7) but, 
rather, “ all the treasures of the house 
of the Lord, and the treasures of the 
king’s house” (2 Kings 24:13, italics 
mine). 


It therefore appears that the episode 
of 2 Chronicles 36:5-8 was not the 
same as that of 2 Kings 24:14. The 
former took place in 604, along with 
the captivity of Daniel and his friends; 
the latter took place in 597 and in- 
volved a different king (Jehoiachin), 
with a far larger amount of treasure 
and a huge number of captives. Thus 
the case for establishing a discrepancy 
completely fails; the data of the biblical 
text precludes identifying the two 
events as the one and same transaction. 

But the manner and place of 
Jehoiakim’s death were a bit more 
pathetic than the brief statement in 2 
Kings 24:6 would indicate, for we read 
in Jeremiah 22:18-19: “Therefore 
thus says the Lord in regard to 
Jehoiakim the son of Josiah . . . ‘They 
will not lament for him:’ . . . He will be 
buried with a donkey’s burial, dragged 
off and thrown out beyond the gates of 
Jerusalem” (nasb). This predicts the 
shameful treatment meted out to 
Jehoiakim’s corpse after he died (ap- 
parently around 7 December 598 b.c.). 
Instead of a normal interment in a 
royal tomb — whether at the time of the 
funeral or sometime thereafter — that 
body was tossed into some open pit like 
that intended for a dead animal; and 
he was permanently interred outside 
the city walls by a citizenry that deeply 
resented his wicked and disastrous 
reign. His unhappy son, Jehoiachin, 
remained to face the full consequences 
of his father’s oath breaking toward 
Nebuchadnezzar — as noted above. 

What was the correct age for Jehoiachin 
when he came to the throne, eight or eigh- 
teen? 

Second Kings 24:8 tells us that 
Jehoiachin “was eighteen years old 
when he became king.” But the paral- 
lel passage in 2 Chronicles 36:9 states 
that he was “eight” years old when he 
began to reign. Obviously there has 
been a textual error committed by the 


214 


2 KINGS 


copyist either in 2 Kings or in 2 Chron- 
icles. This type of error occurs now 
and then because of blurring or sur- 
face damage in the earlier manuscript 
from which the copy is made. A nu- 
merical system generally in use dur- 
ing the fifth century (when Chronicles 
was probably composed — very likely 
under Ezra’s supervision) features a 
horizontal stroke ending in a hook at 
its right end as the sign for “ten”; two 
of them would make the number 
“twenty.” (See article on 2 Kings 8:26.) 
The digits under ten would be indi- 
cated by rows of little vertical strokes, 
generally in groups of three. Thus 
what was originally written as a hori- 
zontal hooked stroke over one or more 
of these groups of short vertical 
strokes (in this case, eight strokes) 
would appear as a mere “eight” instead 
of “eighteen.” 

The probabilities are that 2 Chroni- 
cles 36:9 is incorrect, both because the 
age of eight is unusually young to 
assume governmental leadership — 
though Joash ben Ahaziah was only 
seven when he began to reign (2 Kings 
11:21) and Josiah was only eight (2 
Kings 22:1) — and because the Chal- 
deans treated him as a responsible 


adult and condemned him to perma- 
nent imprisonment in Babylon after he 
surrendered to them in 597 b.c. More- 
over, it is far less likely that the copyist 
would have mistakenly seen an extra 
ten stroke that was not present in his 
original than that he would have failed 
to observe one that had been smudged 
out. 

While it is true that Jehoiachin’s 
father, Jehoiakim, must have been un- 
usually young to have begotten him 
(sixteen or seventeen), nevertheless 
some of the Judean royalty seem to 
have married at an early age (in other 
words, if Jehoiakim was twenty-five at 
his accession in 608 [2 Kings 23:36], 
and if Jehoiachin was eighteen in 598 
when his father died [2 Kings 24:8], 
then there must have been only a dif- 
ference of seventeen or eighteen years 
between them). Note that Ahaz appears 
to have fathered Hezekiah at the age of 
thirteen or fourteen, judging from the 
fact that Ahaz was twenty on his vice- 
regency in 743 and that Hezekiah was 
twenty-five at his father’s death in 725 
(hardly at his first appointment as 
vice-regent in 728!) (cf. 2 Kings 16:2 
[2 Chron. 28:1] and 2 Kings 18:2 
[2 Chron. 29:1]). 


215 


1 Chronicles 


Special note: For a general discussion of 
the distinctive purposes of the author of 
1 and 2 Chronicles consult the first dis- 
cussion under Jonah, p. 300 concerning 
the alleged midrashic elements in Jonah. 

Why are there so many genealogies in 
1 and 2 Chronicles? 

The Chronicles were apparently 
compiled by Ezra in the middle of the 
fifth century b.c., or at least by a con- 
temporary of his. After the long ordeal 
of the Babylonian captivity, which 
lasted from 586 to 539, a group of 
Jewish colonists was led back by 
Zerubbabel and Jeshua to establish a 
new commonwealth of Israel in their 
ruined homeland. The Israelites had 
lost every material possession — every 
building, every home — as a result of 
the Chaldean devastation. All that was 
left were the people, their memories, 
their traditions, and their Bible — and, 
of course, the God who had given it to 
them and who had kept His promise 
by restoring them to their land after 
the Exile was over. It was therefore of 
utmost importance to establish their 
lines of descent, from Abraham and 
the twelve sons of Jacob, and from the 
later ancestors to whom specific ter- 
ritories, cities, and towns had been as- 
signed back in the days of Joshua. 

There are many people today who 
will spare no effort to trace their ances- 
try back as far as they can. But in Is- 
rael’s case there was the added factor 


that Yahweh Elohim had made a per- 
sonal covenant with Abraham and his 
“seed,” a series of gracious promises 
and special requirements for them to 
lead a godly life. Probably the great 
majority of the deported Israelites 
elected not to undertake the hardships 
involved in making the trek back to 
Jerusalem; the 42,000 freemen who 
made up the group of returnees could 
hardly have been more than 10 per- 
cent of those eligible to go back from 
Babylon, (cf. Isa. 6:13) It was very im- 
portant to establish definitely which 
families were represented in the second 
commonwealth, for God’s plan of re- 
demption was bound up with them 
rather than with the 90 percent who 
preferred to stay in Exile. 

This emphasis on genealogies con- 
tinues even until New Testament 
times, for early in Matthew and Luke 
we find the lines of descent recorded 
for our Lord and Savior, Jesus 
Christ — the son of David, the son of 
Abraham, the son of Adam. Jesus’ 
human ancestry was very important 
for His status as the Son of Man, the 
Messiah, the Savior of all true believ- 
ers, both from Israel and from the 
Gentiles. 

What was the genealogical relationship 
between Sheshbazzar, Shealtiel, and 
Zerubbabel? 

First Chronicles 3:16-19 states: 
“And the sons of Jehoiakim were 


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1 CHRONICLES 


Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son [i.e., 
Jehoiakim’s younger son — not to be 
confused with his uncle Zedekiah son 
of Josiah, who became the last king of 
Judah]. And the sons of Jeconiah [or 
Jehoiachin, cf. 2 Kings 24:8] the pris- 
oner [reading 'ash rather than 'Assir, 
as the Masoretes have wrongly pointed 
it] were Shealtiel his son, and Mal- 
chiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar [and three 
others]. And the sons of Pedaiah were 
Zerubbabel and Shimei. And the sons 
of Zerubbabel were Meshullam and 
Hananiah” (plus one daughter and 
five more sons, according to v.20). 

This passage establishes that Zerub- 
babel, the governor of the province of 
Judah in Zechariah’s time (Zech. 4:6- 
9), was the son of Pedaiah and, there- 
fore, a nephew of Shealtiel (Pedaiah’s 
older brother). But Ezra 3:2 refers to 
Zerubbabel as the “son” of Shealtiel; so 
Shealtiel apparently had adopted 
Zerubbabel after the premature death 
of his natural father, Pedaiah. (There 
is no reference to Pedaiah’s early de- 
mise elsewhere, but this is the only rea- 
sonable explanation for Zerubbabel’s 
being taken over by Shealtiel. Other 
references to Zerubbabel as “the son of 
Shealtiel” are Ezra 3:8; 5:2; Neh. 12:1; 
Haggai 1:1.) 

As for Sheshbazzar, Ezra 1:8 states 
that Cyrus, king of Persia, had his treas- 
urer, Mithredath, turn over the fifty- 
four hundred gold and silver vessels 
of the destroyed Jerusalem temple 
(seized by Nebuchadnezzar as booty 
back in 587) into the hands of 
“Sheshbazzar, the prince [nasi’] of 
Judah.” Verse 1 1 states that these ves- 
sels were safely conveyed by Sheshbaz- 
zar to Jerusalem (in 537) as the re- 
turned Israelites began building their 
new colony there. Later on, Ezra 5:14 
corroborates the fact that these temple 
vessels were given over by Cyrus 
(doubtless through his treasurer, Mith- 
redath) “to one whose name was Shesh- 
bazzar, whom he had appointed gover- 
nor [pehah]." 


There are two possible deductions to 
draw from the foregoing evidence: 
“Sheshbazzar” is another name for 
Zerubbabel, or “Sheshbazzar” is an- 
other name for Shealtiel, the “father” 
of Zerubbabel. The former has some 
strong advocates, such as C.F. Keil 
(Keil and Delitzsch, Ezra, Nehemiah, 
Esther, p. 27), who suggests that 
“Sheshbazzar” was Zerubbabel’s of- 
ficial court name (analogous to “Bel- 
teshazzar,” the court name of Daniel 
[Dan. 1:7]). The difficulty with this 
theory is that “Sheshbazzar” (derived 
possibly from Shamash-mar-(u)sur, 
“Sun-god, protect the son!” which is 
what one would expect for an official 
court name) is no more clearly of 
Babylonian origin than “Zerubbabel” 
(zeru-Babili, “Seed of Babylon”). This 
weakens the supposition that one is the 
given name and the other a Gentile 
name later imposed. 

The latter view, that Sheshbazzar 
was the court name of Shealtiel, the 
(adoptive) father of Zerubbabel, has 
more to commend it; for Shealtiel is a 
genuine Hebrew name (meaning, “I 
asked God,” or possibly, “My request is 
God”). It is not inconceivable, perhaps, 
that Zerubbabel or Sheshbazzar was 
the name originally given to the baby 
by the parents at circumcision, since 
they had become accustomed to such 
non-Hebraic names during the long 
captivity in Babylonia. But it seems far 
more likely that Shealtiel was a name 
bestowed originally by his Hebrew 
parents and that Sheshbazzar was the 
court name later assigned to him by 
the Babylonian government. This 
would mean, then, that the temple ves- 
sels were entrusted to Shealtiel- 
Sheshbazzar, the aged adoptive father 
(actually the uncle) of Zerubbabel, by 
the Persian authorities. It would have 
to follow that Shealtiel was originally 
given the status of pehah, or governor, 
of the new Jewish colony to be estab- 
lished in Judea, and that both he and 
his “son” Zerubbabel participated in 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


the laying of the foundations of the 
second temple in 536. 

It should, however, be carefully 
noted that Sheshbazzar is never men- 
tioned again after the foundation 
ceremony itself (Ezra 5: 16). This might 
indicate that soon after that event he 
passed away and left the mantle of au- 
thority with his “son,” Zerubbabel, who 
from then on probably served as the 
pehah (though this is nowhere ex- 
pressly affirmed of him). Admittedly, 
this explanation is cumbered with at- 
tendant suppositions that are oth- 
erwise unsubstantiated; and it lacks the 
simplicity of the first view, that Shesh- 
bazzar is another name for Zerubbabel 
(an interpretation strongly argued 
by Unger, Bible Dictionary, p. 1014). 
From the standpoint of sheer likeli- 
hood, the objection based on the Bab- 
ylonian etymology of both names 
(Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel) may not 
seem to loom as large as the necessity 
of imagining that Zerubttabel’s father 
held the honor of senior governor and 
shared with him in the laying of the 
cornerstone of the temple, when there 
is no actual mention of two such lead- 
ers in connection with the foundation 
ceremony. If so, the fairest thing to say 
is that either explanation would solve 
the problem of the apparent discrep- 
ancy, but the available evidence does 
not point strongly to either of them in 
preference to the other. 

Before leaving this topic, it ought to 
be added that if Sheshbazzar was the 
same person as Shealtiel, then we may 
suppose that there might have been a 
levirate marriage involved. That is to 
say, according to Deuteronomy 25:5, if 
a man died without having had a son 
by his wife, his surviving brother (or 
nearest male relative, if he had no 
brother) had the responsibility of tak- 
ing the widow into his home and mar- 
rying her, so as “to raise up seed unto 
his brother.” The first son born to 
them after this levirate marriage was to 
be accounted, not the son of the sec- 


ond man, but the son of the deceased 
man. If, then, Pedaiah died young 
without leaving issue, Shealtiel may 
have taken his widow over and thus 
became the biological father of her 
first-born child, Zerubbabel. But le- 
gally he would be accounted the son of 
Pedaiah, just as 1 Chronicles 3:19 at- 
tests. And yet, since he was actually be- 
gotten by Shealtiel and raised up by him 
in his home, he would also (unoffici- 
ally) be known as the son of Shealtiel. 

1There remains just one more diffi- 
culty to deal with in this connection. 
Luke’s genealogy of jesus (3:27-28) 
lists the following links in the series: 
Addi -Melchi-Neri - Salathiel-Zarobabel - 
Resa-loanan, et al. Since Salathiel is the 
Greek form of Shealtiel, and Zoro- 
babel is obviously Zerubabbel, the 
question arises as to whether there is 
any relationship here between Sheal- 
tiel and Zerubbabel (descendants of 
King Josiah of the Davidic dynasty) 
and those two who are descended from 
Melchi and Neri in the Lucan geneal- 
ogy. The answer must be in the nega- 
tive; for not only are the names of Neri 
and his forbears impossible to be fitted 
into the Davidic line, but their time 
locus is definitely wrong. In Matthew’s 
genealogy of Christ, Salathiel and 
Zorobabel are generations fifteen and 
sixteen after David, whereas in the 
Lucan series Salathiel and Zorobabel 
are twenty-one and twenty-two after 
David. Even though some links are oc- 
casionally omitted in the Matthew list 
(such as Ahaziah-Joash-Amaziah be- 
tween Joram and Uzziah), the dis- 
crepancy of five generations is hardly 
overcome. 

How then are we to account for the 
sequence Shealtiel and Zerubbabel in 
the line descended from Jeconiah 
(Matt. 1:12) and the sequence Shealtiel 
and Zerubbabel in the branch of 
David’s family that descended through 
Nathan (Luke 3:27-31) to Neri? It is, 
to be sure, quite unusual for the same 
father-to-son pair to occur in two dif- 


218 


1 CHRONICLES 


ferent family lines; yet there is an in- 
teresting analogy to be found back in 
the time of Ahab and Jehoshaphat. 
Both kings, during a time of cordial 
relations between the governments of 
Judah and Israel, named their two 
sons Jehoram and Ahaziah (2 Kings 
1:17 and 8:16; 1 Kings 2:51; 2 Kings 
1:1; 8:25). Thus it is quite conceivable 
that a descendant of King David 
named Shealtiel living in the post- 
Exilic period (i.e., Shealtiel son of 
Neri) might have decided to name his 
own son Zerubbabel, in honor of the 
well-known pair who led the remnant 
back to Jerusalem at the close of the 
Exile. In the previous millennium, the 
Twelfth Dynasty and the Eighteenth 
Dynasty of Egypt had a series of 
Amenemhat-Senwosret kings and 
Amenhotep-Thutmose kings, respec- 
tively. And so there are both prece- 
dents and analogies for the recurrence 
of father-son pairs, so far as names are 
concerned. 

How could a good God, a God of peace, 
condone warfare (1 Chron. 5:22), give in- 
structions as to how war should be fought 
(Deut. 20), and be acclaimed by His 
people as “the Lord is a warrior” (Exod. 
15:3)? (D*) 

The key element in 1 Chronicles 5:22 
(which tells of the tribal conquests of 
Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh over the 
pagan races of Transjordan) is: “For 
many fell slain, because the war was of 
God.” 

Underlying this question are certain 
assumptions that require careful exam- 
ination as to their soundness. Is it really 
a manifestation of goodness to furnish 
no opposition to evil? Can we say that a 
truly good surgeon should do nothing 
to cut away cancerous tissue from his 
patient and simply allow him to go on 
suffering until finally he dies? Can we 
praise a police force that stands idly by 
and offers no slightest resistance to the 
armed robber, the rapist, the arsonist, 


or any other criminal who preys on so- 
ciety? How could God be called “good” 
if He forbade His people to protect 
their wives from ravishment and 
strangulation by drunken marauders, 
or to resist invaders who have come to 
pick up their children and dash out 
their brains against the wall? 

No policy would give freer rein to 
wickedness and crime than a complete 
surrender of the right of self-defense 
on the part of the law-abiding mem- 
bers of society. No more effective way 
of promoting the cause of Satan and 
the powers of hell could be devised 
than depriving law-abiding citizens 
of all right of self-defense. It is hard 
to imagine how any deity could be 
thought “good” who would ordain 
such a policy of supine surrender to 
evil as that advocated by pacifism. All 
possibility of an ordered society would 
be removed on the abolition of any sort 
of police force. No nation could retain 
its liberty or preserve the lives of its 
citizens if it were prevented from 
maintaining any sort of army for its 
defense. It is therefore incumbent on a 
“good God” to include the right of 
self-defense as the prerogative of His 
people. He would not be good at all if 
He were to turn the world over to the 
horrors of unbridled cruelty perpe- 
trated by violent and bloody criminals 
or the unchecked aggression of invad- 
ing armies. 

Not only is a proper and responsible 
policy of self-defense taught by Scrip- 
ture from Genesis to Revelation, but 
there were occasions w'hen God even 
commissioned His people to carry out 
judgment on corrupt and degenerate 
heathen nations and the complete ex- 
termination of cities like Jericho (cf. 
the article on “Was Joshua justified in 
exterminating the population of Jeri- 
cho?” in connection with Joshua 6:21). 
The rules of war laid down in Deu- 
teronomy 20 represented a control of 
justice, fairness, and kindness in the 
use of the sword, and as such they truly 


219 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


did reflect the goodness of God. Spe- 
cial hardship conditions were defined 
as a ground for excusing individual 
soldiers from military duty until those 
conditions were cleared up (Deut. 
20:5-7). Even those who had no such 
excuse but were simply afraid and re- 
luctant to fight were likewise allowed 
to go home (v.8). Unlike the heathen 
armies, who might attack a city without 
giving it an opportunity to surrender 
on terms (cf. 1 Sam 11:2-3; 30:1-2), 
the armies of Israel were required to 
grant a city an opportunity to surren- 
der without bloodshed and enter into 
vassalage to the Hebrews before pro- 
ceeding to a full-scale siege and de- 
struction. Even then, the women and 
children were to be spared from death 
and were to be cared for by their cap- 
tors (Deut. 20:14). Only in the case of 
the degenerate and depraved inhabi- 
tants of the Promised Land of Canaan 
itself was there to be total destruction; 
a failure to carry this out would cer- 
tainly result in the undermining of the 
moral and spiritual standards of Israel- 
ite society, according to vv. 16-18. 
(This corrupting influence was later 
apparent in the period of the Judges 
IJudg. 2:2-3,11-15].) 

In the New Testament itself, the call- 
ing of a soldier is considered an hon- 
orable one, if carried on in a responsi- 
ble and lawful fashion (Matt. 8:5; Luke 
3:14; Acts 10:1-6,34-35). Paul even 
uses the analogy of faithful service in 
the army as a model for Christian 
commitment (2 Tim. 2:4), without the 
slightest suggestion of reproach for 
military service. In a similar vein is the 
description in Ephesians 6:11-17 of 
the spiritual armor to be put on by the 
Christian warrior in the service of his 
Lord. There does not appear to be any 
basis in Scripture, either in the Old 
Testament or the New, for the concept 
of a “good” God who enjoins pacifism 
on His followers. (Fora more extensive 
discussion of the Bible evidence on this 
point, see G. L. Archer, “Does Pacifism 


Have a Scriptural Basis?” The Evangeli- 
cal Beacon [December 28, 1971]: 4-6.) 

First Chronicles 6:16ff says that Samuel’s 
father was a Levite, but 1 Samuel 1:1 says 
that he was an Ephraimite. Which is 
correct? 

First Chronicles 6: 16,22-28 says that 
Elkanah the father of Samuel (to be 
distinguished from Elkanah the son of 
Assir, who was five generations before 
him) was descended from Kohath the 
son of Levi, just as Moses and Aaron 
were. For this reason Samuel was ac- 
cepted as a lad by the high priest Eli 
(1 Sam. 1:24,28; 2:1 1) to be an appren- 
tice under him. When Samuel reached 
adulthood, he functioned as a priest 
and held sacrifices in the leading 
centers of Israel — which he could not 
have done had he not been of the 
priestly tribe. 

So far as 1 Samuel 1:1 is concerned, 
this simply states that Elkanah was 
“from” (min) Ramathaim-zophim on 
Mount Ephraim. All Levites were as- 
signed to certain “Levitical cities” or 
towns throughout the Twelve Tribes, 
according to the regulation laid down 
in Numbers 35:6. We do not have a list 
of these forty-eight towns, but quite 
possibly Ramathaim-zophim was one 
of them. By ancestry, then, Elkanah 
was a Levite; by location he was an 
Ephraimite. Hence there is no contra- 
diction whatever between these two 
passages. 

In 1 Chronicles 21 David is said to have 
yielded to Satan’s temptation to number 
Israel. As a result of this God destroyed 
seventy thousand people through pesti- 
lence. Was it just of God to punish the 
people for David’s sin? (D*) 

From the human standpoint, it 
would certainly seem far more ideal 
for the evil consequences of sin to be 
limited to the wrongdoer alone. But 
because of the interrelated involve- 


220 


1 CHRONICLES 


merits of family and society, no such 
limitation is possible. There is a sense 
in which the millions who perished 
during the Nazi era suffered death be- 
cause of one man, Adolf Hitler. In 
David’s case, of course, there was no 
malicious or cruel intent behind his 
stubborn purpose to have a census 
taken of all the citizens in his kingdom. 
His motive was more likely to have 
been a self-congratulatory pride in his 
achievements as a military genius and in 
the prosperity that the entire kingdom 
had attained under his leadership. 

It is a mistake, however, to assume 
that David’s countrymen were not also 
involved in this same attitude of pride. 
Second Samuel 24: 1 tells us, "Now 
again the anger of the Lord burned 
against Israel, and it incited David 
against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel 
and Judah.’” (nasb). It may very well 
have been that the advisability of con- 
ducting a census had been suggested 
by David’s advisers, both on the 
grounds of military expediency and 
for the sake of a more accurate basis 
for taxation. There must have been a 
high level of nationalistic pride that 
tended to minimize God’s sovereign 
grace and power rather than to ac- 
knowledge Him as the author of all 
their astonishing victories on the 
battlefield and the extension of their 
hegemony from the borders of Egypt 
to the banks of the Euphrates and the 
northernmost reaches of Syria. As a 
nation they must have been ripe for a 
judgment of warning, or else it would 
never have been said that the “anger of 
the Lord burned against Israel.” 

From 1 Chronicles 21:1 we are 
apprised of how Satan capitalized on 
this situation: “Then Satan stood up 
against Israel and moved David to 
number Israel.” As is his custom, when 
Satan found the situation ripe for ex- 
ploitation, he moved in to encourage 
the desire on David’s part and in the 
hearts of his leaders to carry through 
this egotistical undertaking, even 


though General Joab strongly advised 
against it (cf. v.3). It should not be a 
matter of surprise, therefore, that the 
totalling up of all the manpower of the 
Twelve Tribes at the height of their 
power constrained God to remind 
them that it was not by their great 
numbers they would prevail but only 
by His great grace. 

Why does Chronicles consistently give a 
higher numerical figure than Samuel or 
Kings, wherever there is a discrepancy? 

Some eighteen or twenty examples 
may be found of discrepancy in num- 
bers between Chronicles and Samuel- 
Kings in reporting the same trans- 
action. This has been interpreted by 
some critics as evidence of a consis- 
tent policy to glorify the past as the 
Chronicler resorts to deliberate exag- 
gerations. It should be pointed out, 
however, that in the vast number of 
instances Chronicles does agree per- 
fectly with Samuel and Kings in the 
matter of numbers and statistics; and 
so the alleged desire to embellish the 
record and exaggerate the glory of the 
past must have been a very modest one 
on the Chronicler’s part. 

A careful examination of the eight- 
een or twenty examples of true dis- 
crepancy (for most of the apparent 
discrepancies turn out to be referring 
to a different group of people or 
things not occurring at precisely the 
same time or belonging to exactly the 
same category) yields the interesting 
result that fully a third of them display 
a smaller number in Chronicles than 
in Samuel-Kings. For example, see 

1 Chronicles 11:11 as compared with 

2 Samuel 23:8; 1 Chronicles 21:5b 
as compared with 2 Samuel 24:9b; 
2 Chronicles 3:16b as compared with 

1 Kings 7:20b (cf. v.42); 2 Chroni- 
cles 8:10 as compared with 1 Kings9:23; 

2 Chronicles 36:9 as compared with 
2 Kings 24:8. A good example of a 
more modest (and credible) figure is 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


2 Chronicles 9:25, which gives four 
thousand as the number of stalls Sol- 
omon built for his cavalry, whereas 1 
Kings 4:26 puts the figure at forty 
thousand. Or again, 1 Chronicles 
11:11 gives the number of enemies 
slain by Jashobeam in a single battle as 
reaching three hundred; 2 Samuel 
23:8 gives it as eight hundred — 
according to the Masoretic text. 

One interesting example of a suspi- 
ciously high figure appears in 1 Sam- 
uel 6:19 (unfortunately there is no 
parallel in Chronicles). The number of 
persons slain by a divine plague at 
Bethshemesh, where the inhabitants 
had opened up the sacred ark of the 
covenant and looked inside it, is re- 
ported as 50,070 — a figure probably 
exceeding the total population of 
Bethshemesh (though we cannot be 
sure of that). 

In explanation of these transmis- 
sional errors (as we believe them to be), 
let it be understood that numerals and 
proper names are always more liable to 
copyist errors than almost any other 
type of subject matter (especially when 
we are dealing with non-Hebraic for- 
eign names). Almost all suspiciously 
high numbers are round numbers ex- 
pressed in thousands. In the later stage 
of transmission particularly (but prior 
to the imposing of a system of spelling 
out in full, as prescribed by the guild of 
sd-p’rim, or professional scribes), al- 
phabetic letters were often used. 
Thousands were indicated by sup- 
ralinear dots appearing over the digit 
letter. (Thus an aleph with two dots 
over it indicated one thousand.) As a 
manuscript became worn, brittle, or 
moth-eaten, it would be difficult to tell 
whether the multiplying dots were 
over the letter or not. But even the ear- 
lier types of notation, such as that 
employed in the fifth-century b.c. 
Elephantine Papyri, were also subject 
to garbling in the attempt to copy from 
a faded or smudged document. In line 
with the Egyptian hieratic style, the 


Jewish authors would use superim- 
posed horizontal fish hooks in order to 
indicate decades. A serious conse- 
quence of this may be instanced in the 
case of 2 Kings 18:13, where an origi- 
nal “twenty-four” was copied out as 
“fourteen,” apparently because the 
upper fishhook was smudged in the 
manuscript copied from. (This case is 
discussed in a separate article. Com- 
pare also the discussion of Ezra 2 and 
Nehemiah 7 in regard to the numbers 
who returned from Babylon.) 

To revert to the original question 
about the Chronicler who has been un- 
justly accused of propagandist tenden- 
cies, the elimination of seven instances 
described above (which actually show 
smaller statistics than Samuel-Kings) 
leaves us only a dozen well-accredited 
numerical discrepancies in which 
Chronicles shows a higher number. 
Considering the large amount of text 
involved, it is almost incredible that so 
few numerical discrepancies do occur, 
out of hundreds of instances where 
numbers are cited by both sources. In 
other cases the unit of measurement 
reflects a later, lighter standard of 
weight than that specified in the earlier 
source. See, for example, the discussion 
of 1 Chronicles 22:14 and the halving 
of the weight of the shekel by the fifth 
century b.c. 

(For a more thorough discussion of 
the numbers included in the text of 
Chronicles, see J. B. Payne, “The Va- 
lidity of Numbers in Chronicles,” Bul- 
letin of the Near East Archeological Society, 
n.s. 11 [1978]: 5-58.) 

How could David say in 1 Chronicles 
22:14 that he had provided for 100,000 
talents of gold for the future temple and 
then say in 1 Chronicles 29:4 that he had 
donated only 3000 talents? (D*) 

The answer to this is very simple. In 
1 Chronicles 22 David makes his prin- 
cipal donation to the work of building 
and equipping the future temple of 


222 


1 CHRONICLES 


Yahweh so that Solomon will have eve- 
rything needful when he sets about its 
construction. But in 1 Chronicles 29 
David holds another building fund 
rally in which he appeals to his well- 
to-do supporters to make a supple- 
mental donation beyond that which 
they have already given in chapter 22. 
The language of 29:3^4 is quite 
explicit on this: “And moreover, in my 
delight in the house of my God, the 
treasure I have of gold and silver, I 
give to the house of my God, over and 
above all that I have already provided 
[i.e., the 100,000 talentsof22:14 — con- 
cerning which consult the article fol- 
lowing] for the holy temple, namely, 
3000 talents of gold, . . . and 7000 tal- 
ents of refined silver, to overlay the 
walls of the buildings” (nasb). In other 
words, he sees a need for a supple- 
mental contribution even beyond the 
large sum he had already devoted to 
the project. The nobles and wealthy 
businessmen followed their king’s 
example and gave an additional 5000 
talents, plus 10,000 darics, of gold — 
along with 10,000 talents of silver, 
18,000 talents of brass, and 100,000 
talents of iron. There is no contra- 
diction whatsoever between these two 
chapters; 29 records a later donation 
supplemental to that of 22. 

First Chronicles 22:14 lists “100,000 tal- 
ents of gold” as donated by David to the 
future temple in Jerusalem. Is this a cred- 
ible figure, or is it a transmissional error? 

Both in the Masoretic text and in the 
Septuagint this remarkably large fig- 
ure of “100,000 talents of gold and 
1,000,000 talents of silver” is given. 
Such a sum as this might have been 
beyond the resources of the Caesars 
themselves. It would be quite possible 
to commit an error in textual transmis- 
sion in the act of copying out large 
numbers of this sort. We have a proba- 
ble example of this as we compare 2 
Chronicles 9:25 (which gives four 


thousand as the number of stalls built 
for Solomon’s chariot horses) and 1 
Kings 4:26 (which gives the figure as 
forty thousand). The latter citation has 
undoubtedly undergone multiplica- 
don by ten because of an obscurity in 
or misunderstanding of the Vorlage. It 
may be that here also, in 1 Chronicles 
22: 14, there has been the error of one 
decimal point. Perhaps the original 
figure was “10,000 talents of gold”; 
perhaps the silver total of 1,000,000 
was miscopied from an original 
100,000. Another possibility would be 
the misinterpreting of an abbreviation 
for “manehs” as “kikkars” (there were 
sixty manehs or minas to the kikkar or 
talent). 

At the same time it should be ob- 
served that the Masoretic text figure 
cannot be excluded from the realm of 
possibility. Keil (Keil and Delitzsch, 
Chronicles, pp. 246ff.) makes the fol- 
lowing points: 

1. The ordinary civil or “royal” 
shekel seems to have been only 
one-half the Mosaic “shekel of the 
sanctuary.” This appears from a 
comparison of 1 Kings 10:17 (“300 
shields of beaten gold, using three 
minas [150 shekels] of gold on 
each large shield”) and 2 Chroni- 
cles 9:16 (“300 shields of beaten 
gold, using three hundred shekels 
of gold on each shield”). (Three 
hundred shekels would equal six 
minas; hence the figure in 1 Kings 
involves a shekel twice as heavy as 
that of 2 Chronicles.) This means 
that the 100,000 talents referred 
to in Chronicles would be equal to 
only 50,000 talents back in the ear- 
lier period. The Chronicles talent 
would weigh about thirty-seven 
and a half pounds rather than the 
seventy-five pounds of the Sol- 
omonic age. 

2. Keil also points out that Alexander 
the Great is reported to have 
plundered the Persian royal treas- 


223 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


ury of 40,000 to 50,000 talents of 
gold and silver bullion, plus 9000 
talents in coined gold (i.e., darics). 
In Persepolis alone he captured 

120.000 talents, in Parsagada 6000 
more, and in Ecbatana 180,000 
talents. There may be some over- 
lap in these Figures, but if they are 
added end to end, they total about 

355.000 talents of gold and silver. 
3. David is recorded as conquering 

the Edomites, Philistines, Moab- 
ites, Ammonites, and the Sykrian 
kingdoms of Damascus, Hamath, 
and Zobah — and the Amalekites 
as well. These defeated nations 
are listed in 2 Samuel 8:7-13, 
and there it is stated that all 
their treasures taken as spoil were 
dedicated by David to the Lord. 


Over the forty years of David’s 
reign, these must have accumu- 
lated to a very large total — especi- 
ally since David did rather little 
in the way of expensive public 
works. Moreover his friendly po- 
litical relations with the prosperous 
merchant cities of Tyre and Sidon 
must have resulted in considerable 
revenue from commerce. Thus a 
total accumulation of “100,000 
talents of gold” (i.e., 50,000 tal- 
ents by the earlier standard) and 
“ 1 ,000,000 talents of silver” (equal- 
ing 500,000) can hardly be shown 
to be so far beyond his capacity to 
donate to the erection of the future 
temple, on which he had set his 
heart. 


224 


2 Chronicles 


How can 2 Chronicles 16:1 (thirty-sixth 
year of Asa) be reconciled with 1 Kings 
16:8 (Elah began to reign in the twenty- 
sixth year of Asa)? 

If Asa began his reign in 911 b.c., 
the thirty-sixth year of his reign would 
have been 876 or 875. He reigned for 
forty-one years (1 Kings 15:10); so this 
would have been a possible date — 
except for the fact that Baasha himself 
reigned from 909 to 886. Therefore he 
could not have built a fortress at 
Ramah in 875, eleven years after his 
death. Here we have a clear discrep- 
ancy in the Received Text. There are 
two possible solutions. 

One solution is that the phrase 
maf-kiL-t ’Asa in 2 Chronicles 16:1 does 
not refer to Asa’s own reign but rather 
should be understood as “the kingdom 
of Asa,” i.e., the southern kingdom of 
Judah as distinguished from the 
northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes. 
Since the southern kingdom began 
under Rehoboam in 931 or 930 b.c., 
the thirty-sixth year would come out to 
895 for the expedition of Baasha — 
which is the correct year, in all proba- 
bility. (Leon Wood, Israel’s History, p. 
346, dates it as occurring in the six- 
teenth year of Asa, or 895.) This would 
mean that the Chronicler copied out 
his information from an older official 
record in Judah that at first used 931 
as the “era” date rather than a regnal 
date. Later on, however, the Chroni- 
cler’s sources seem to have shifted to a 


regular regnal system of dating; for 
there are no other examples of such an 
era date except 2 Chronicles 15:19, 
which puts the war between Asa and 
Baasha in the thirty-fifth year of his 
reign. Jamieson (Jamieson-Fausset- 
Brown, Commentary, 1:274) favors this 
solution, saying, “The best Biblical crit- 
ics are agreed in considering this date 
to be calculated from the separation of 
the kingdoms, and coincident with the 
sixteenth year of Asa’s reign. This 
mode of reckoning was, in all likelihood, 
generally followed in the book of the 
kings of Judah and Israel, the public 
annals of the time (v. 11), the source 
from which the inspired historian 
drew his account.” 

In defense of this theory it should be 
said that mal e kut is often used even in 
the post-Exilic books to mean “king- 
dom” or “realm” rather than “reign” 
(e.g., 2 Chron. 1:1; 11:17; 20:30; Neh. 
9:35; Esth. 1:14, etc.) In 1 Chronicles 
17:14 it is used of “royalty” as belong- 
ing to Yahweh; in Esther 1:2 and 5:1 as 
the “kingdom” of Persia. But it is with- 
out parallel to refer to the kingdom of a 
nation as a whole and identify it thus 
with one particular king who comes 
later on in the ruling dynasty. And the 
fact that in its account of the later his- 
tory of Judah no such usage can be 
instanced in Chronicles raises a formid- 
able difficulty to this solution, even 
though it does avoid the necessity of 
textual emendation. 

The other solution, presented by 


225 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


Keil (Keil and Delitzsch, Chronicles, pp. 
366-67), prefers to regard the number 
"thirty-six” in 2 Chronicles 16:1 and 
the number “thirty-five” in 15:19 as a 
copyist’s error for "sixteen” and “fif- 
teen,” respectively. There is no way in 
which such an error could have arisen 
if the Vorlage recorded the number of 
words fully spelled out (for “sixteen” — 
sissah ‘osar — cannot possibly be mis- 
understood as “thirty-six” — st’ldsim 
wdses). But if the number was written 
in numerical notation of the Hebrew 
alphabetic type (rather than the Egyp- 
tian multiple-stroke type used in the 
Elephantine Papyri), then “sixteen” 
could quite easily be confused with 
"thirty-six.” The reason for this is that 
up through the seventh century b.c. 
the letter yod (= 10) greatly resem- 
bled the letter lamed (= 30), except for 
two tiny strokes attached to the left of 
the main vertical stroke. That is to say, 
yod was and lamed was U . It re- 
quired only a smudge from excessive 
wear on the scroll-column to result in 
making the yod look like a lamed — with 
a resultant error of twenty. It is possi- 
ble that this error occurred first in the 
earlier passage, in 2 Chronicles 15:19 
(with its “thirty-five” wrongly copied 
from an original “fifteen”); then to 
make it consistent in 16:1, the same 
scribe (or perhaps a later one) con- 
cluded that "sixteen” must be an error 
for “thirty-six” and changed it accord- 
ingly on his copy. 

If this is the true explanation for the 
discrepancy, then it would bear a simi- 
larity to the problem arising in 2 Kings 
18:13, in which the relevant data com- 
pel an emendation of the "fourteenth 
year of King Hezekiah” to the “twenty- 
fourth year of King Hezekiah.” Another 
example of this involves 2 Chronicles 
36:9, which gives the age of Jehoiachin 
as eight at the time of his accession, 
whereas the parallel in 2 Kings 24:8 
indicates the true number as “eighteen.” 
Still another instance is 2 Chronicles 
22:2, which gives the age of Ahaziah 


son of Jehoram as “forty-two” when he 
began to reign, whereas 2 Kings 8:26 
gives it as “twenty-two” (which is more 
probably the correct number). 

How could Jehoram of Judah receive a let- 
ter from Elijah long after his departure 
from this life (2 Chron. 21:12-15)? 

Obviously he could not have done 
so. But the question presupposes some- 
thing that never happened, namely 
the demise of Elijah at some time 
prior to the reign of Jehoram son 
of Jehoshaphat. The reader is invited 
to consult W. Crockett, A Harmony of 
Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, p. 247. 
There he will see that “The Transla- 
tion of Elijah” is placed in the reign of 
Jehoram the son of Ahab. Therefore it 
was perfectly possible for Elijah to 
compose a letter of warning and re- 
buke as late as 847 b.c., for the reign of 
Jehoram of Judah (848-841) largely 
overlapped the reign of Jehoram of Is- 
rael (852-841). 

Elijah was certainly still active in the 
reign of Jehoram’s immediate prede- 
cessor, Ahaziah of Israel (853-852), 
who also was a son of Ahab. We know 
this because of the exciting encounter 
Elijah had with Ahaziah’s platoons of 
soldiers sent to arrest him but who 
were destroyed by fire from heaven in 
answer to Elijah’s prayer (2 Kings 
1:3-16). In all probability the aged 
prophet would have lived on for 
another four or five years until the 
character and policies of Jehoshaphat’s 
unworthy son had become apparent. 
(Second Chron. 21:4 relates how 
Jehoram had all his own brothers put 
to death as soon as he became king. 
Probably his bloodthirsty wife, Atha- 
liah daughter of Jezebel, encour- 
aged him to this fratricide. She herself 
later tried to kill off all the survivors of 
Ahab’s house after her son Ahaziah 
was slain by Jehu in 841.) 

It is true that the account of Elijah’s 
translation to heaven is given in 2 


226 


2 CHRONICLES 


Kings 2:1-11, whereas the reign of 
Jehoram of Judah is not spoken of 
until 2 Kings 8:16. But it should be 
remembered that the narrator of First 
and Second Kings continually shifts 
from the careers of reigning kings to 
the adventures of the principal proph- 
ets, Elijah and Elisha. On occasion he 
carries a theme through in a proleptic 
way when he is describing the exploits 
of Elijah, not desiring to leave off that 
theme until he is through with it. So it 
was with the story of Elijah’s departure 
to heaven. This was closely related to 
the enduement of Elisha with the charis- 
matic power of his revered teacher. 
Elijah had First called him to disciple- 
ship back in the reign of Ahab, after 
he had symbolically cast his mantle 
on him (1 Kings 19:19-21), not long 
after the memorable contest on Mount 
Carmel. 

As Elijah later came near the end of 
his earthly career during the reign of 
Jehoram son of Ahab (852-841), the 
most important theme from the au- 
thor’s standpoint was the prophetic 
succession. Therefore he very logically 
related that First (i.e., the bestowal of 
Elijah’s cloak and a double portion of 
his spirit on Elisha at the time of their 
parting). Not until then was it appro- 
priate for the author of Kings to 
backtrack and pick up the narration of 
the national affairs of Israel and Judah 
in chapter 3. (A similar proleptic pro- 
cedure is followed in 2 Kings 19:37, 
which relates the assassination of 
Sennacherib, which took place in 681 
b.c., before the illness of Hezekiah, 
which occurred in 714.) 

So far as the narrative in 2 Chroni- 
cles is concerned, there is no notice at 
all of Elijah’s demise, whether before 
or after the accession of Jehoram son 
ot Jehoshaphat; so there is no problem 
of apparent anachronism to deal with. 
In all probability the letter of Elijah to 
Jehoram was composed in 847 and de- 
livered to him that same year, shortly 
before Elijah was taken up into heaven 


by the celestial chariot of fire (2 Kings 

2 : 11 ). 

Why is there no mention of Manasseh’s 
repentance in 2 Kings? 

Second Chronicles 33:13-16 tells of 
King Manasseh’s repentance and dedi- 
cation to God after his release from 
captivity in Babylon (cf. v.ll). In de- 
spair Manasseh cast himself on the 
mercy of the God he had hated and 
mocked during the decades of his 
wicked reign. Amazingly, the Lord re- 
sponded to his cry and released him. 
According to vv. 15-16, Manasseh then 
removed all the idols he had installed 
in the Jerusalem temple and all the 
pagan altars throughout the city and 
cast them into the trash heap outside 
the city walls. He then restored the 
worship of Yahweh in the temple ac- 
cording to the law of Moses and ended 
his days in restored fellowship with 
God. 

But why was this final conversion of 
that wicked king not mentioned at all 
in the account in 2 Kings 21? The first 
nine verses of this chapter detail his 
sinful violation of God’s covenant and 
the baneful influence he exerted for 
the spiritual downfall of his people. 
The next six verses record God’s stern 
sentence of total destruction for 
Jerusalem and the southern kingdom 
because of Manasseh’s unparalleled 
wickedness. The account closes 
(vv. 16-18) with a summary of the un- 
checked bloodshed and crime that 
afflicted Jerusalem under his rule and 
makes no mention whatever of a 
change of heart before his death and 
burial. 

It seems a bit strange that such an 
important development as the latter- 
day repentance of this long-reigning 
king receives no mention whatever in 
2 Kings 21. But the reason seems to lie 
in the different focus of interest that 
guided the author of Kings. He was not 
quite so concerned with the personal 


227 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


relationship of individual leaders to the 
Lord as he was with the response of the 
nation as a whole to its responsibilities 
under the covenant. From the stand- 
point of lasting results, Manasseh’s 
reign added up to a severe spiritual 
setback for Judah; and even his per- 
sonal reform and restoration to fel- 
lowship with God came as too little 
and too late, so far as influencing the 
nation was concerned. Under his son 
and successor, Amon, the people re- 
verted to their immoral, idolatrous 
lifestyle, just about as they had done 
before Manasseh’s return from captiv- 
ity. The curse of God was not lifted 
from the city, and the disaster of 587 
b.c. came upon them just the same. 

The author of Chronicles, however, 
takes more of a personal interest in 
the relationship each leader or king 
maintained toward God. Thus in 
1 Kings 15:9-24 there is a relatively 
short account of Asa’s reign, which cen- 
ters attention on Asa’s grave blunder in 
bribing Benhadad of Damascus to in- 
4 vade Israel from the north, thus com- 
pelling Baasha of Israel to give up his 
fortification of Ramah on his southern 
border. The maneuver seemed success- 
ful, and Baasha’s fortress was later 
completely dismantled by Asa’s troops; 
but there were sinister consequences 
for the future. In 2 Chronicles 16:7-9 
God’s prophet Hanani had to rebuke 
Asa for relying on the king of Syria for 
deliverance rather than on God. Hanani 


reminded Asa of the wonderful way 
Yahweh had come through for him in 
his combat with the huge army of the 
Ethiopians and Egyptians, when he 
had cast himself wholly on God’s faith- 
ful mercy (an episode described at 
length in 2 Chron. 14:9-15 but entirely 
omitted in 1 Kings). 

Going still further back, we find in 2 
Chronicles 13:2-20 a long, detailed ac- 
count of a victory won by Abijah son of 
Rehoboam over Jeroboam I. This was 
completely omitted by 1 Kings because 
it had no lasting results for the political 
struggle between the divided king- 
doms. But for the Chronicler it was 
important because it showed how 
wonderfully God delivers those like 
Abijah who trust in Him in the pres- 
ence of great difficulties and dis- 
couraging odds. Thus we can discern a 
pattern of selection as between the two 
historians. First Kings focused on the 
overall result of each king’s reign, in 
the light of his faithfulness to the cov- 
enant. But the Chronicler was in- 
terested in recording great moments 
of faith, even when no lasting conse- 
quences ensued for the nation as a 
whole. Omission of an event in Kings is 
therefore not to be regarded as casting 
doubt on its historicity in Chroni- 
cles — anymore than the omission of 
an event in one synoptic Gospeljustifies 
doubt as to its historicity when it ap- 
pears in another gospel. 


228 


Ezra 


How do we resolve the statistical dis- 
crepancies between Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 
7? 

In Ezra 2:3-35 and Nehemiah 
7:8-38 there are about thirty-three 
family units that appear in both lists, 
starting with the sons of Parosh (2,172 
in both cases). Of these thirty-three 
there are fourteen that differ; two of 
them differ by 1 (sons of Adonikam, 
sons of Bezai), one differs by 4 (sons of 
Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 725 as against 
721), two by 6 (Pahath-moab of the 
sons of Joshua and Joab, i.e., 2,812 as 
against 2,818; and the sons of Bani 
or Binnui — note the variant vocaliza- 
tion for the same consonants — 642 as 
against 648). For the men of Beth- 
lehem and Netophah, the total is 
9 less for Ezra 2:21-22 (179) than in 
Nehemiah 7:26 (188). The sons of 
Bigvai are 1 1 less in Ezra 2:14 (2,056) 
than in Nehemiah 7:19 (2,067). In the 
case of the sons of Zattu, Ezra reports 
945, which is exactly 100 more than 
the 845 given by Nehemiah 7:13; simi- 
larly, the men of Bethel and Ai (223 in 
Ezra 2:28 vs. 123 in Neh. 7:32). For the 
sons of Adin, Ezra 2:15 has 201 less 
(454) than in Nehemiah 7:20 (655); 
105 less in Ezra for the sons of 
Hashum (223 in Ezra 2:19 vs. 328 in 
Neh. 7:22). Ezra 2:35 gives 300 less for 
the sons of Senaah than Nehemiah 
7:38 (3,630 vs. 3,930). The largest dif- 
ference of all is found between Ezra’s 
figure for the sons of Azgad (1,222 in 


2:12) and Nehemiah’s (2,322 in 7:17). 
The other nineteen are identical in the 
two lists. 

How, then, are we to account for the 
fourteen discrepancies? There are two 
important factors to bear in mind as we 
deal with these various discrepancies in 
the Received Text. The first is that 
consideration adduced by Jamieson, 
Fausset, and Brown ( Commentary , 
1:289): 

It is probable that all mentioned as be- 
longing to this family repaired to the 
general place of rendezvous, or had en- 
rolled their names at first as intending to 
go; but in the interval of preparation, 
some died, others were prevented by 
sickness or insurmountable obstacles, so 
that ultimately no more than 652 [sc. of 
the family of ArahJ came to Jerusalem. 

Later, the same writer observes: 

The discrepancy is sufficiently ac- 
counted for from the different circum- 
stances in which the two registers were 
taken: that of Ezra having been made up 
at Babylon, while that of Nehemiah was 
drawn out in Judea, after the walls of 
Jerusalem had been rebuilt. The lapse 
of so many years might well be expected 
to make a difference appear in the cata- 
logue, through death or other causes 
(ibid., 1:297). 

To be sure, regardless of the date 
when Nehemiah recorded this list (ca. 
445 b.c.), his expressed purpose was to 
give the exact number of those who ac- 


229 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


tually arrived at Jerusalem under the 
leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua 
back in 537 or 536 (Neh. 7:7). So also 
Ezra (in the 450s, apparently) re- 
corded their numbers (2:1-2). But it 
may well be that Ezra used the earlier 
list of those who originally announced 
their intention to join the caravan of 
returning colonists back in Babylonia, 
whereas Nehemiah’s list reproduces 
the tally of those who actually arrived 
in Judea at the end of the long trek 
from Mesopotamia. 

In some cases there may well have 
been some individual families who at 
first determined to go with the rest and 
actually left their marshaling field 
(at Tel Abib, or wherever it may have 
been in Babylonia) under Zerubbabel 
and proceeded to the outskirts of that 
province before new factors arose 
to change their mind. They may have 
fallen into disagreement as to the ad- 
visability of all of them going at once 
with the initial group; others may have 
discovered business reasons to delay 
their departure until later. In some cases 
there may have been illness or death, 
as Jamieson suggested in the quotation 
cited above. In other cases there may 
have been some last-minute recruits 
from those who at first decided to re- 
main in Babylonia. Perhaps they were 
caught up in the excitement of the re- 
turn movement and joined the com- 
pany of emigrants after the official 
tally had been taken at the marshaling 
grounds. Nevertheless, they made it 
safely back to Jerusalem, or wherever 
their ancestral town in Judea was, and 
were counted in the final list made up 
at the completion of the journey. 

Only four clans or city-groups came 
in with shrunken numbers (Arah, 
Zattu, the men of Bethel and Ai, and 
the men of Lod, Hadid, and Ono). All 
the rest picked up last-minute recruits, 
varying from 1 (in the case of Ado- 
nikam and Bezai) to 1,100 (in the 
case of Azgad). It would be fascinating 
to know what special, emotional, or 


economic factors led to these last- 
minute decisions. At any rate, the dif- 
ferences in totals that do appear in 
these two tallies should occasion no 
surprise whatever. The same sort of 
augmentation and attrition has fea- 
tured every large migration in human 
history. 

A second consideration should also 
be kept in mind, and that is the diffi- 
culty of preserving complete accuracy 
in the copying out of numerals as be- 
tween the Vorlage and its would-be du- 
plicate. Numbers are very difficult to 
verify; and if the Vorlage was by any 
chance worn, smudged, or even 
worm-eaten (as most of the Qumran 
manuscripts were, for example), it is 
very easy to see how uncertainty as to 
the digit might join with absentmind- 
edness on the part of the copyist to 
produce an inaccuracy in reproducing 
the figures. (A similar difficulty arises 
in the copying of rare or unfamiliar 
names, especially if they are non- 
Israelite names.) 

Strong confirmation of this type of 
copyist error is found in various pagan 
records that have been preserved to us 
for the purposes of comparison. For 
example, in the Behistun Rock inscrip- 
tion set up by Darius I, we find that 
#38 gives the figure for the slain of the 
army of Frada as 55,243, with 6,572 
prisoners — according to the Babylo- 
nian column. In a duplicate copy of 
this inscription found at Babylon itself, 
the number of prisoners was 6,973. 
But in the Aramaic translation of this 
inscription discovered at the Elephan- 
tine in Egypt, the number of prisoners 
was only 6,972 — precisely the same 
discrepancy as we have noted in the 
comparison of Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 
(cf. F.W. Konig, Relief und Inschrift des 
Konigs Dareios I am Felsen von Bagistan 
[Leiden: Brill, 1938], p. 48.) Similarly 
in #31 of the same inscription, the 
Babylonian column gives 2,045 as the 
number of slain in the rebellious army 
of Frawartish, along with 1,558 pris- 


230 


EZRA 


oners, whereas the Aramaic copy has 
over 1,575 as the prisoner count (ibid., 
p. 45). 

How can we reconcile Ezra 3:8-13; 5:13- 
17, which say that the second temple was 
begun in the reign of Cyrus the Great; 
Ezra 4:24, which says it was begun in the 
second year of Darius I; and Haggai 2:15, 
which implies that the work had not yet 
begun in 520 b.c.? 

Ezra 3:10-1 1 speaks only of the lay- 
ing of the foundation of the temple in 
the seventh month of the year, when 
the fifty thousand returnees from the 
Babylonian captivity recommenced 
sacrificial worship on the site of Sol- 
omon’s temple. Presumably this oc- 
curred in 537 or 536. But as Ezra 4:4 
makes clear, the Samaritans and other 
neighboring nations brought such in- 
fluence to bear on Cyrus’s court at the 
imperial capital that the government 
suspended their building permit. 

Ezra 4:24 informs us that because of 
this opposition, all further work on the 
building of the temple was suspended 
until the second year of Darius the 
Great, about 520 or 519 b.c. While the 
wealthier members of the Judean col- 
ony were busily building nice homes 
for themselves, they made no effort at 
all to pursue the task of rebuilding the 
temple of the Lord (Hag. 1:3-4). 

In the year 520 or 519, Haggai was 
directed by the Lord to stir up the 
people of Judah and Jerusalem to start 
building on the foundation that had 
been laid sixteen years before. In re- 
sponse to this challenge, the Jewish 
governor Zerubbabel and the high 
priest Joshua rallied to this undertak- 
ing with their whole heart, along with 
the rank and file of the people (1:14). 
This new beginning was made on the 
“twenty-fourth day of the sixth month” 
that same year (1:15). 

On the twenty-first day of the 
seventh month, almost a month later 
(according to 2:1), Haggai gave them 


an encouraging prediction about the 
glory of the second temple as surpass- 
ing that of the first (v.9). Two months 
later still (v.10), the prophet called at- 
tention to the fact that their farming 
activities had been beset with blight, 
mildew, and hail, ever since they dis- 
continued building the temple sixteen 
years before (“the day when the foun- 
dation of the Lord’s temple was laid” 
[v. 18]). 

Despite the interference of Tattenai, 
the governor of Trans-Euphrates, 
Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues, 
King Darius himself had a search 
made for King Cyrus’s original decree 
back in 537; and after it had been lo- 
cated at Ecbatana, he issued a rescript 
ordering the Jerusalem temple to be 
completed without any interference on 
the part of the neighboring nations 
(Ezra 6:3-12). The happy result was 
that the second temple was finished in 
516, “on the third day of Adar, in the 
sixth year of the reign of King Darius” 
(v.15). 

Thus we see that when all the scrip- 
tural data are properly sorted out and 
compared, there is no discrepancy 
whatever among them, nor any diffi- 
culty at their reconciliation. 


What was the real reason why the rebuild- 
ing of the temple was delayed? 

Ezra 4:7-23 states that it was foreign 
interference (Rehum and Shimshai) 
that caused the delay in rebuilding the 
temple, after a hopeful beginning had 
been made by Zerubbabel and Jeshua 
in 536 b.c. But Haggai 1:2 accuses the 
Jerusalem leaders themselves of indif- 
ference towards the project and lays 
the blame on them for making no at- 
tempt to renew the building campaign. 
Haggai’s message came in 520, or a 
good fourteen years later than the sus- 
pension of the work late in the reign of 
Cyrus. 

Actually, both statements are true. 
Back in the time of Cyrus, the sur- 


231 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


rounding nations became alarmed at 
the establishment of a new settlement 
of Jews in Jerusalem; and they hired 
counselors at the Persian court to per- 
suade the king to suspend the building 
license. But later on, after the death of 
Cambyses in 524 and the assassination 
of Gaumata (Pseudo-Smerdis) in 522, 
followed by the rise of Darius I to a 
position of power, the situation was 
somewhat more favorable to the Jews’ 
renewing their efforts to get their 
temple built. Yet by that time the lead- 
ing classes in Jerusalem had become so 
preoccupied with their own interests 
and concerns that they felt no zeal to 
renew the building project — especially 
if there was any danger of their getting 
in trouble for rebuilding the temple 
without a permit. 

There bas been much misunder- 
standing, however, concerning the 
sequence of events in Ezra 4; Rehum 
and Shimshai were not even around 
when Haggai’s building campaign 
began in 520. Note that the date of 
their letter was later than 464, since it 
was addressed to Artaxerxes (464-424 
b.c.) Nor does either their letter to the 
king or his reply to them make any 
mention of the building of the temple 
as such but only of the rebuilding of 


the city walls and outer defenses. The 
temple itself had been completed back 
in 516 (Ezra 6:15). In the course of the 
campaign to rebuild the templle, there 
was a remonstrance raised by Tattenai, 
governor of Trans-Euphrates, and 
Shethar-bozenai and their associates; 
and they actually wrote to King Darius 
to see whether the claim of the Jews 
that Cyrus had originally given them 
official permission was actually true 
(Ezra 5:3-17). His researches finally 
located the decree, and he cordially 
validated their right to go ahead with 
the completion of the temple without 
interference from anyone — and with 
royal subsidies to help them meet ex- 
penses (Ezra 6:1-12). 

The opposition of Rehum and 
Shimshai was several decades later 
(even though it is mentioned earlier in 
Ezra), and it had only to do with re- 
building the walls of the city. It was 
apparently the concern of Ezra himself 
to aid in the repair of the city walls (cf. 
Ezra 9:9) as well as the religious ref- 
ormation of the city. But for reasons 
not given in the Bible record, Ezra’s 
efforts were frustrated; and it re- 
mained for Nehemiah to complete that 
important task (cf. article on Daniel’s 
prophecy of the Seventy Weeks). 


232 


Nehemiah 


What was the real name of Nehemiah’s 
Arab opponent, “Geshem” (Neh. 2:19) or 
“Gashmu” (Neh. 6:6)? 

Arabic names preserved (and still 
do, in modern literary Arabic) the orig- 
inal Semitic three-case inflectional end- 
ings (u for the nominative, i for the 
genitive, and a for the accusative). The 
Arabic pronunciation of the man’s 


name is given with the u ending in 6:6. 
But the usual practice of the Hebrew- 
speaking and Aramaic-speaking pop- 
ulations of Palestine was to omit the 
short-vowel ending for all nouns, in- 
cluding proper names. Hence Gashmu 
would more normally be referred to as 
Geshem, as was the case in Nehemiah 
2:19. 


233 


Esther 


Was it right for Esther to take part in a 
pagan beauty contest and become part of 
Xerxes’ harem? 

Even though God’s name is not 
explicitly mentioned in the Book of 
Esther, the providential guidance of 
the Lord is marvelously attested 
throughout all ten chapters, from be- 
ginning to end. No time was more 
fraught with peril for the Jewish na- 
tion; for it was then that Haman, the 
prime minister of Persia, undertook 
to have the entire population of the 
Hebrew captivity wiped out in a geno- 
cidal massacre. To thwart this evil pur- 
pose, God raised up a woman — a very 
beautiful, intelligent, and courageous 
woman — who made herself totally 
available for the deliverance of her 
people. The only way she could 
achieve this goal was by presenting 
herself before the king as a candidate 
in the beauty contest held in the royal 
palace. 

Whether Esther actually volun- 
teered to participate, or whether she 
was compelled by the king’s agents to 
join with the other contestants, we 


have no way of knowing. Esther 2:8 
simply says, “Esther was taken to the 
king’s palace” (nasb). This could well 
imply that she had no freedom to re- 
fuse. At any rate, there can be no 
doubt that she was to serve as God’s 
instrument to frustrate the purpose of 
the vengeful premier, Haman, and to 
entangle him in a web of guilt as one 
who plotted the death of Xerxes’ new 
queen. Because of all the special fac- 
tors, we may say with assurance that in 
this particular case Esther acted com- 
pletely within the will of God. She was 
willing to risk her life for the sake of 
her people, saying, “If I perish, I per- 
ish” (4:16). 

Yet on the other hand, this remark- 
able adventure of Queen Esther can 
hardly be said to offer a precedent for 
young Christian women to follow at 
the level of a modern beauty contest. 
It is true that God used Esther’s beauty 
to deliver His chosen people from total 
destruction. No such issues, however, 
are at stake in beauty contests as we 
know them in our modern civilization; 
and young believers are well advised to 
avoid them. 


234 



Was Job a historical person or just a fic- 
tional hero? 

Because of the poetic form in which 
39 of the 42 chapters of Job are com- 
posed, and because of the super- 
natural forces involved in the hero’s 
disasters and afflictions (as well as in 
his restoration to good fortune), some 
scholars have questioned the historicity 
of the whole episode. Was there ever 
such a person as Job; and, if so, where 
did he live and when? Many have 
speculated that he was a mere fictional 
character, somehow representative of 
the Hebrew people during their 
period of deep affliction in the 
Babylonian captivity. They allege that 
the high frequency of loan words from 
Aramaic and the high level of pure 
monotheism reflected in the viewpoint 
of all five persons — or six, if we include 
Yahweh Himself — involved in the dia- 
logues indicate a post-Exilic date of 
composition. 

In answer to this skeptical theory of 
a late, fictional origin of Job, we should 
observe that ample grounds may be 
found to support the complete his- 
toricity of both Job himself and the de- 
tails given concerning his life experi- 
ences. First, it should be observed that 
Job 1:1 states very positively that 
“there was a man in the land of Uz, 
whose name was Job.” This is ex- 
pressed in just as truly a matter-of-fact 
way as 1 Samuel 1:1: “Now there was 


a certain man from Ramathaim- 
zophim, . . . and his name was Elkanah 
the son of Jeroham, etc.” (nasb). Or 
again, in Luke 1:5 we read, “In the 
days of Herod, King of Judea, there 
was a certain priest named Zacharias” 
(nasb). If Job is part of the sacred 
canon of Scripture, it logically follows 
that the same credibility must be 
granted to its opening historical state- 
ment as is accorded to 1 Samuel or to 
Luke — or to any other book in Scrip- 
ture that affirms the historical exis- 
tence of a character whose career it 
records. 

Second, the historicity of Job is defi- 
nitely confirmed by the references to 
him found elsewhere in Scripture. In 
Ezekiel 14: 14 he is grouped with Noah 
and Daniel as a paragon of godliness 
and an effective intercessor before 
God: “Even though these three men, 
Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its [i.e., 
Israel’s] midst, by their own righteous- 
ness they could only deliver them- 
selves, declares the Lord God” (nasb). 
Here we find God Himself affirming 
the factual existence of Job on the 
same level with the existence of Noah 
and Daniel. If, therefore, no such per- 
son as Job ever lived, the historicity of 
both Noah and Daniel is likewise called 
in question. And actually it would fol- 
low that God Himself must be under- 
stood as deceived about the whole mat- 
ter and in need of correction by the 
present-day scholars of skeptical per- 


235 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


suasion! In this connection it is signifi- 
cant that even W.F. Albright, who in- 
clined to a late date of the composition 
of Job, entertained no serious doubt as 
to the actual existence of Job himself. 
In his chapter on “The Old Testament 
and Archeology” (H.C. Alleman and 
E.E. Flack, eds., Old Testament Com- 
mentary [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1954]), 
Albright suggested that Job may have 
been a contemporary of the patriarchs 
in the pre-Mosaic age. He supports the 
credibility of Job by the authentic 
second-millennium employment of the 
name Tyyob. (It should be noted that in 
the Berlin Execration texts, Tyydb ap- 
pears as the name of a Syrian prince 
living near Damascus; in the Mari 
documents of the eighteenth century 
b.c., Ayyabum is mentioned; and in the 
Tell el-Amarna correspondence from 
about 1400 b.c., Ayab is referred to as a 
prince of Pella.) Albright also certifies 
the credibility of the name of Bildad 
(one of Job’s three “comforters”) as a 
shortened form of Yabil-Dadum, a 
name found in the cuneiform sources 
of the early second millennium. 

Third, objections based on the con- 
frontation between Yahweh and Satan 
recorded in the first two chapters of 
Job are no more soundly based than 
those regarding Christ’s temptation by 
Satan in the wilderness, as recorded in 
Matthew 4 and Luke 4. If the Bible 
cannot be regarded as trustworthy in 
such matters as these, it is difficult to 
say in what respect it retains any au- 
thority or credibility as a document of 
divine revelation. 

Fourth, the linguistic argument based 
on the presence of terms more char- 
acteristic of Aramaic than Hebrew is 
tenuous indeed. The Aramaic lan- 
guage was evidently known and used 
in North Arabia for a long period of 
time. The numerous first-millennium 
inscriptions of the North Arabian Na- 
bateans are almost invariably written in 
Aramaic, and commercial relations 
with Aramaic-speaking peoples proba- 


bly began before 2000 b.c. Jacob’s 
father-in-law, Laban, was certainly Ar- 
amaic speaking (cf. Gen. 31:47). Com- 
mercial contacts with the great Syrian 
center of Ebla were very extensive as 
early as 2400 b.c. (though the Eblaites 
themselves seem to have spoken an 
Amorite dialect, rather than Aramaic). 

Furthermore, it should be pointed 
out that the extent of Aramaic influ- 
ence has been somewhat overrated. 
A. Guillaume (“The Unity of the Book 
of Job,” Annual of Leeds University, Or- 
iental Sec. 14 [1962-63]: 26-27) has 
convincingly argued that there are 
no demonstrable Aramaisms in the 
speeches of Elihu (Job 32-37), which 
reputedly have the highest incidence 
of them. He contends that nearly all of 
them are terms existing in Arabic that 
happen to have cognates in Aramaic as 
well. He deals with no less than 
twenty-five examples of this, citing the 
Arabic originals in every case. Since 
the setting of the narrative is in Uz, 
located somewhere in North Arabia, 
this admixture of Arabic and Aramaic 
vocabulary is exactly what should be 
expected in the text of Job, whether it 
was originally composed in Hebrew 
(which is rather unlikely), or whether it 
was translated out of an earlier text 
written in the language prevalent in 
North Arabia during the pre-Mosaic 
period. 

In view of the above-mentioned con- 
siderations, we must conclude that 
there are no tenable grounds for the 
theory of a fictional Job. The apostle 
James was therefore quite justified in 
appealing to the example of the patri- 
arch Job in his exhortation to Chris- 
tian believers to remain patient under 
tribulation. James 5:11 states: “You 
have heard of the endurance of Job 
and have seen the outcome of the 
Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of 
compassion and is merciful” (nasb, an 
allusion to Job’s ultimate restoration to 
health, wealth, and happiness as the 
father of a large and God-fearing fam- 


236 


ily). It is needless to point out that the 
Lord could hardly have been merciful 
and compassionate to a fictional char- 
acter who never existed! 

In Strong’s Concordance we are told that 
the word translated “curse” in Job 1:11 
and 2:5 is berak, a word that elsewhere is 
translated “bless.” How can the same He- 
brew word mean two such opposite 
things? 

It is true that barak in the piel stem 
(berak) normally means “bless,” “greet 
with a blessing.” It occurs very fre- 
quently throughout the Old Testa- 
ment with this meaning. But in Job 
1:5,11; 2:5,9, and possibly also in 
Psalm 10:3 (where it is coupled with 
ni’es, “despise,” “reject”), it seems to 
have the very opposite meaning to 
“bless.” This is explained by Brown- 
Driver-Briggs ( Lexicon , p. 139) as fol- 
lows: “Bless with the antithetical mean- 
ing curse . . . from the greeting in 
departing, saying adieu to, taking leave 
of; but rather a blessing overdone and 
so really a curse as in vulgar English.” 
In this connection, 1 Kings 21:10,13 
may also be cited. 

The verb berak means “say goodby 
to” in Genesis 24:60; 32:1; 47:10; 
Joshua 22:6, 2 Samuel 13:25; and 1 
Kings 8:66, generally with the conno- 
tation of invoking a parting blessing on 
the person taking his leave. From this 
usage we may surmise that an insolent 
sinner might say goodby to God Him- 
self, with the intention of dismissing 
Him from his mind and conscience, of 
totally abandoning Him (so Zorell, Lex- 
icon, p. 130, and this seems as satisfac- 
tory an explanation as any). Delitzsch 
(Keil and Delitzsch, Job, 2:51) calls 
this use of berak an antiphrastic eu- 
phemism. He feels that in Job 2:9 it 
clearly means valedicere (“say goodby 
to”) as a benedictory salutation at part- 
ing. But in his general handling of 
these negative usages, he prefers to 


render it “dismiss God from one’s 
heart” (ibid., 2:49). 

The statement of Eliphaz in Job 5:13 is 
quoted in 1 Corinthians 3:19 as valid and 
true; does this mean that the words of Job’s 
three comforters were also inspired? 

In Job 5:13 Eliphaz says of God, 
“He captures the wise by their own 
shrewdness and the advice of the cun- 
ning is quickly thwarted” (nasb). The 
first portion of this is quoted in 1 
Corinthians 3:19: “He is the one who 
catches the wise in their craftiness” 
(nasb). But if Eliphaz was right in this 
affirmation about God, how are we to 
understand the Lord’s reproof to 
Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad as ex- 
pressed in Job 42:7: “The Lord said to 
Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is 
kindled against you and against your 
two friends, because you have not spo- 
ken of Me what is right as My servant 
Job has’” (nasb)? This adverse judg- 
ment calls into question the reliability 
of any statement made by any of the 
three. 

While it is true that the basic position 
of the three “comforters” was seriously 
in error (that all misfortune and mis- 
ery that befalls an apparently right- 
eous believer must be the consequence 
of unconfessed, secret sin), neverthe- 
less 42:7 does not go so far as to say 
that nothing else they ever said about 
God was true. On the contrary, even 
Job himself conceded the correctness 
of some of their teachings about God, 
for he rephrased many of the state- 
ments they themselves had made and 
wove them into his own eloquent 
eulogies of God. 

On the other hand, it hardly seems 
doubtful that some of Job’s own senti- 
ments were incorrect and subject to the 
rebuke of both Elihu and Yahweh 
Himself. In fact, Job is led by God’s 
direct teaching to see the presumptuous 
folly he had shown in criticizing God 


237 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


for unfairness and unkindness toward 
him. Job even says of himself in 42:3: 
“Who is this that hides counsel without 
knowledge? Therefore I have declared 
that which I did not understand, 
things too wonderful for me, which I 
did not know” (nasb). Later on, in v.6, 
Job adds, “Therefore I retract, and I 
repent in dust and ashes” (nasb). Ob- 
viously, if Job had to retract things that 
he had said amiss in criticism of God’s 
treatment of him, then not everything 
Job himself said about God is to be re- 
ceived as true. 

Therefore we must rely on the con- 
text in each case in order to discover 
which of Job’s sentiments were divinely 
inspired and approved of, and which 
expressed the distortions of insight to 
which grief and provocation had 
driven him. After all, the inerrancy of 
Scripture assures the truthfulness and 
accuracy of the record of what was said 
and done, according to the intention of 
the author within the context of his 
message. If by careful, objective 
exegesis it can be ascertained that the 
scriptural author meant to give a faith- 
ful record of what men said mistakenly 
or untruthfully, the inerrancy inheres 
in the accuracy of the report; it does 
not necessarily vouch for the truthful- 
ness of what was said. No reader would 
imagine, for example, that what Satan 
said to God in Job 1 and 2 is to be 
received as truthful. 

There is, however, one other signifi- 
cant observation to be made. Concern- 
ing Job’s comforters, in all the New 
Testament this one statement from 
Eliphaz in 1 Corinthians 3:19 is the 
only quotation to be found from them. 
Nothing said by Bildad or Zophar is 
ever quoted, nor is any other comment 
from Eliphaz. Similar sentiments may 
be found elsewhere in the New Testa- 
ment, but never any quotations — only 
vague allusions. (For a fuller discus- 
sion of this point, see 1 Cor. 3:19.) 

In Job 2:1-2, Satan presents himself be- 
fore the Lord. Does this mean that Satan 


has access to heaven and is able to go 
freely between heaven and earth? Also, 
who are the “sons of God” referred to in 
v.l? (D*) 

In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is spoken of 
as the “prince [archon] of the power [or 
‘authority’ — exoiisia] of the air” ( aer , 
the atmosphere surrounding the 
earth, not the outer atmosphere or 
“space” indicated by aither). His sphere 
of action, even in his fallen and con- 
fined state (cf. 2 Peter 2:4), seems to be 
extensive enough so that he comes in 
contact with the archangel Michael 
(Jude 9) and even has communication 
with God over his administration of 
judicial authority. 

Thus in Zechariah 3:1, the prophet 
sees a vision (admittedly symbolic) of 
the contemporary high priest of Israel 
standing before the judgment throne 
of God: “He showed me Joshua the 
high priest standing before the angel 
of Yahweh, with Satan standing on his 
right to accuse him. The angel of 
Yahweh said to Satan, ‘May Yahweh 
rebuke you, Satan!’” 

This establishes quite clearly the fact 
that Satan, prior to the Cross at least, 
had occasional access to the court of 
God in situations where man’s sinful- 
ness gave him the right to interpose 
the claims of strict, retributive justice, 
or where the sincerity of believers’ 
motives toward the Lord might be 
called in question. For this cause Satan 
is called “the Accuser” (Greek ho 
diabolos ), who accuses Christians before 
the Lord night and day (Rev. 12:10). 
There is ample support from Scripture 
that Satan does have at least occasional 
and limited access before God in the 
presence of the angels of heaven — 
referred to as “the sons of God” (both 
in Job 1 :6 and 2:1; cf. also Job 38:7 — 
“when the morning stars sang to- 
gether, and all the sons of God shouted 
for joy,” i.e., back in the primeval be- 
ginning, long before the creation of 
the human race). 

Present in this scene are some unex- 


238 


pected features that are not easily ex- 
plained. If this celestial court session is 
held in heaven, in what part of heaven 
might this have taken place? There are 
at least three levels according to 2 
Corinthians 12:2, where Paul mentions 
being caught up to the third heaven to 
behold the glories above. Presumably 
the scene of Job 2 would not be the 
highest and holiest level, as nothing 
abominable or profane is granted ad- 
mittance to the City of God (Rev. 
21:27). But perhaps in some lower 
level, on occasion at least, the Lord 
holds sessions of His celestial council; 
and to such gatherings Satan may 
come as an uninvited guest. 

The other puzzling feature about 
this confrontation is that God seems to 
treat the Prince of Evil in such a casual 
and relaxed manner, asking him what 
he has been doing recently, and 
whether he has observed the consistent 
godliness of Job. We have no way of 
knowing whether Satan still puts in 
such appearances before the judicial 
throne of God; but it is certainly true 
that he later challenged and tried to 
tempt the Son of God in the wilderness 
at the commencement of His active 
ministry (cf. Matt. 4; Luke 4). 

Satan’s doom is sure; he is destined 
to be bound for a thousand years dur- 
ing the Millennium (Rev. 20:2-3). And 
after the final revolt against Christ at 
the close of that period (vv.7-10), 
Satan will be cast into the lake of fire 
and brimstone, there to undergo the 
endless torment of all the cursed and 
condemned (21:8). 

Does Scripture use mythology from pagan 
sources (e.g., Leviathan [Job 41:1; Isa. 
27:1], Rahab [Isa. 30:7], Behemoth [Job 
40:15], Tartarus [2 Peter 2:4])? 

The poetic books, such as Job and 
Psalms, and occasionally the poetic 
passages of the Prophets contain ref- 
erences to mythological figures. There 
is a far more sparing use of them than 
appears in the hymns and religious 


poetry of the non-Hebrew literature of 
the ancient Near East, and there is fur- 
thermore a basic difference in their 
use. The pagans for the most part be- 
lieved in the real existence of these 
mythological characters, whereas the 
biblical authors employed them in a 
purely figurative and metaphorical 
way. 

The same practice can be observed 
in English literature as well, especially 
in the seventeenth century and earlier, 
when frequent allusions occur in the 
works of the great masters who were 
trained in the Greek and Latin classics. 
Thus in the opening lines of John Mil- 
ton’s “Comus” (11.18-21) we read: 

Neptune, besides the sway 

Of every salt flood, and each ebbing 
stream, 

Took in by lot ‘twixt high and nether 
Jove, 

Imperial rule of all the sea-girt Isles. 

Or, again, we read in lines 46-53: 

Bacchus, that first from out the purple 
grape 

Crushed the sweet poison of misused 
wine, 

After the Tuscan mariners transformed 

Coasting the Tyrrhene shore, as the 
winds listed, 

On Circe’s island fell (who knows not 
Circe 

The daughter of the Sun? Whose 
charmed cup whoever tasted, lost his 
upright shape, 

And downward fell into a groveling 
swine). 

It would be a very naive and ill- 
informed critic of English literature 
who would imagine that John Milton, 
that notable Christian apologete who 
composed the most outstanding of all 
English epics pertaining to the Fall of 
Adam and the redemption of man by 
Christ (“Paradise Lost” and “Paradise 
Regained”), betrayed a taint of pagan 
belief in his references to the Roman 
and Greek deities and demigods of 
Vergil and Homer. And yet many a 


239 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


nineteenth-century higher critic of 
biblical literature has fallen into this 
obvious fallacy in his attempt to link 
up the religion of ancient Israel with 
the superstitions of their idolatrous 
neighbors. A careful study of the reli- 
gious documents of the Egyptians, 
Sumerians, Babylonians, and Canaan- 
ites (as set forth in Pritchard’s Ancient 
Near Eastern Texts, for example) will 
show the distinction clearly and under- 
line the fact that the attitude of the bib- 
lical authors towards Behemoth, Levi- 
athan, and Rahab was very similar to 
the Miltonian references to Jove, 
Bacchus, Neptune, and Circe cited 
above. 

To be more specific, “Leviathan” re- 
fers to an aquatic monster of great size 
and fearsome power. In Psalm 104:26 
it is described in such a way as to 
suggest a whale. In Job 41 it probably 
refers to a monster-sized crocodile, as a 
prime example of an untamable beast 
too fierce and powerful for man to 
deal with — and yet perfectly cared for 
by Yahweh its Creator. In Isaiah 27 it 
symbolizes the empires of Assyria (the 
“fleeing” or “piercing” serpent — pos- 
sibly suggestive of the winding Ti- 
gris River) and of Babylonia (the 
“crooked” or “twisted” serpent of the 
River Euphrates). In Psalm 74:14, on 
the other hand, Leviathan is used in 
parallelism with the tannin (“sea mon- 
ster,” “whale,” or even perhaps “river 
monster”), referring to the Nile River 
or the Red Sea. In Ezekiel 29:3-5 it 
clearly refers to the crocodile of Egypt, 
with its scales and gaping jaws. 

“Behemoth” (a plural of intensity 
derived from b e hemah, a large quad- 
ruped, whether domestic or wild) ap- 
pears in Job 40:15 as a fierce, huge 
beast that also frequents the water. On 
the whole it seems best to identify it 
with a giant hippopotamus, native to 
the upper reaches of the Nile. (An 
Egyptian etymology has been sug- 
gested: p\ ih mw, “the water-ox,” 
but this presents serious phonetic 


problems and was never so used by the 
Egyptians themselves, so far as we 
know. The three commonest terms for 
hippopotamus in Egyptian were h'-b, 
db, or nhs [cf. R.O. Faulkner, “A Con- 
cise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian,” 
handwritten lithographed (Oxford, 
1962), pp. 184,311,136 respectively].) 

“Rahab” (Hebrew rahab — not the 
same as Rahab the harlot, which is 
Rahab, a different root) is a term 
meaning “pride,” “arrogance”; but it 
appears in Job 26: 1 2 and 38:8-11 as a 
personification of the turbulent forces 
of the raging deep. It serves as a sym- 
bol of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, 
as employed in Psalm 87:4, or as the 
loud, blustering do-nothing Egypt of 
Isaiah’s day in Isaiah 30:7. 

Tartar os, the Greek term for hell as a 
place of torment, appears only in the 
verb form tartar oo (“consign to Tar- 
taros”) and refers to no deity, only a 
place. 

Does Job 19:26 envision a resurrection 
body or not? 

Job 19:25-27 was uttered by Job 
in an exalted moment of faith, as he 
turned away from his wretched cir- 
cumstances and fastened his gaze on 
God: “But as for me, I know my Re- 
deemer lives, and at the last He will 
stand on the earth [lit., ‘dust’]; and 
after they [i.e., the worms] have con- 
sumed away my skin, yet from my flesh 
I shall behold God — whom I shall be- 
hold and my eyes shall see — I and not 
another, [when] my inward parts have 
been consumed within me.” The pas- 
sage is highly poetic and capable of 
minor variations in rendering here 
and there. But the most discussed mat- 
ter of interpretation concerns the 
word-cluster umibb e sari (composed of 
the waw-connective — “and” or “yet,” 
the preposition min — “from” or “away 
from,” and basar — “body” or “flesh,” 
plus -i, meaning “my.” 

The question at issue is the real sig- 


240 


JOB 


nificance of min: does it mean “in [my 
flesh]” as kjv and niv render it? Or 
does it mean “from [my flesh]” as rsv 
and jb have it? Or does it mean “with- 
out [my flesh]” as asv and nasb have 
rendered it? If Job intends here to say 
that his soul or spirit will behold God 
in the Last Day, then the min should 
perhaps be rendered “without.” But 
no other passage uses min to mean 
“without” in connection with a verb of 
seeing; rather it is only used in combi- 
nations such as Job 11:15 — “Then you 
will lift up your face without spot 
[mimmum]": Proverbs 1:33 — “when 
they are at peace without fear [mip- 
pahad]": Jeremiah 45:48 — “They stand 
without strength [mikkoah]" (cf. Brown- 
Driver-Briggs, Lexicon , p. 578b). 

It is poor exegetical procedure to 
prefer a rare or unusual meaning for a 
word when a common and frequent 
meaning will agree perfectly well with 
the context. Therefore, it is far better 
to take min here in its usual sense of 
the point of reference from which an 
observation is taken, a vantage point 
from which the spectator may view the 


object of his interest. (Thus min is 
often used in specifying a compass di- 
rection or a relative location of one 
person in reference to another.) 

In this case, then, it is hard to believe 
that the Hebrew listener would gain 
any other impression from mibb e sari 
, eh e zeh ’ e loah than “from [the vantage 
point of] my flesh [or ‘body’] I shall 
behold God.” Taken in this sense, the 
passage indicates Job’s conviction that 
even after his body has moldered away 
in the grave, there will come a time in 
the Last Day — when his divine Re- 
deemer stands on the soil (‘ apar ) of 
this earth — that from the vantage 
point of a postresurrection body he 
will behold God. It is for this reason 
that the rendering of rsv and jb 
(“from”) and of kjv and niv (“in,” 
which expresses the same idea with the 
preposition more agreeable to our 
idiom) is much to be preferred over 
the “without” of asv and nasb. Con- 
strued as “from” or “in,” this passage 
strongly suggests an awareness of the 
bodily resurrection that awaits all re- 
deemed believers in the Resurrection. 


241 


Psalms 


Do not Psalms 5:5 and 11:5 contradict the 
teaching that God loves the sinner but 
hates the sin? 

Psalm 5:4-6 reads: “For Thou art 
not a God who takes pleasure in wick- 
edness; no evil dwells with Thee. The 
boastful shall not stand before Thine 
eyes; Thou dost hate all who do in- 
iquity. Thou dost destroy those who 
speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the 
man of bloodshed and deceit” (nasb). 
Psalm 11:5 reinforces this as follows: 
“The Lord tests the righteous and the 
wicked, and the one who loves violence 
His soul hates” (nasb). To this may be 
added the often-cited passage in 
Malachi 1:2-3: ‘“Was not Esau Jacob’s 
brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I 
have loved Jacob; but I have hated 
Esau, and I have made his mountains a 
desolation, and appointed his inher- 
itance for the jackals of the wilder- 
ness.’ ” (nasb). 

From such passages as these we 
learn that God makes a difference be- 
tween good and evil and between good 
men and evil men. Evil does not really 
exist in the abstract (except as a 
theoretical idea) but only in the evil na- 
ture and wicked deeds of ungodly men 
and the demons of hell. Scripture de- 
scribes the wicked and immoral as 
those who love sinners in their de- 
fiance of God and in their contempt 
for His moral law. Thus the prophet 
Hanani rebuked even good King 


Jehoshaphat for his alliance with 
Ahab, saying, “Should you help the 
wicked and love those who hate the 
Lord and so bring wrath on yourself 
from the Lord?” (2 Chron. 19:2, 
nasb). The apostle John warns in his 
first Epistle (2:15): “Do not love the 
world, nor the things in the world. If 
any one loves the world, the love of the 
Father is not in him” (nasb). We are 
not to love the wicked as sinners in 
rebellion against God, lest we become 
involved in their guilty ways and 
attitudes of mind. Therefore, we are to 
recognize that only Satan loves sinners 
in their transgression and opposition 
to the moral law. God does not love 
them in that way; rather, He con- 
demns and punishes them in His 
capacity as righteous Judge over all the 
universe. 

There is yet another aspect of God’s 
attitude toward sinners that reflects 
His unfathomable mercy and match- 
less grace. He so loved the wicked, sin- 
ful world that He gave His only Son, 
Jesus, to die as an atonement for sin. 
“All we like sheep have gone astray, 
. . . but the Lord has caused the in- 
iquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 
53:6). This means that even though 
God opposes and hates the sinner as a 
co-worker with Satan and a tool of his 
malice, God’s love reaches out in com- 
passion and grace to all sinners 
everywhere, seeking to deliver them 
from sin by the Atonement and the 


242 


PSALMS 


New Birth, and to adopt them as His 
children in the family of the re- 
deemed. Here, then, we find to our 
amazement that while God hates and 
condemns the unrepentant, uncon- 
verted sinner, yet His heart reaches 
out to him in mercy and love — a holy 
love operating through the Cross, 
“that He might be just and the justifier 
of the one who has faith in Jesus” 
(Rom. 3:26, nasb). In other words, 
God is able to love the one whom He 
hates; but His hatred is of the sinner in 
his sin, and His love is for the sinner 
who repents of his sin and puts his 
trust in Jesus. Why is this so? Because 
from the moment he sincerely turns 
from his wicked way and puts his trust 
in Jesus, he becomes united with Christ 
by faith — and the Father cannot hate 
His Son, or anyone who is a member of 
His body and a temple of His Spirit. 

How can the superscription to Psalm 30 
be accurate, when it seems so inappro- 
priate for the contents of the psalm? 

The title for Psalm 30, according to 
the Masoretic text, is “A Psalm; a Song 
at the Dedication of the House. A 
Psalm of David” (nasb). The substance 
of Psalm 30 deals largely with a very 
personal experience on the part of the 
poet himself — an experience of rescue 
from the hand of his enemies — 
together with an earnest plea that the 
Lord will not allow him to be killed by 
his enemies, but will rather preserve 
him for further years of fellowship and 
service for God on earth. There seems 
to be nothing in the twelve verses of 
this psalm that would lend itself to use 
in tabernacle or temple by way of pub- 
lic worship. It should be added that the 
titles of the psalms, informative and il- 
luminating though they often are, do 
not enjoy the status of inspired and au- 
thoritative Scripture. Only the words 
of the psalm itself as originally com- 
posed are included in the inerrant text. 


The titles are at best to be considered 
as highly reliable notations added 
sometime subsequent to the composi- 
tion of the poem itself. 

However, we observe one significant 
fact about Psalm 29, which immedi- 
ately precedes the title of Psalm 30. 
Psalm 29 is eminently suited for use 
in public worship and shows some of 
the grandeur and exalting sublimity 
that we associate with the Hallelujah 
Chorus. This brings to mind a treatise 
by J.W. Thirtle ( The Titles of the Psalms, 
their Meaning and Nature Explained, 2d 
ed. [London: H. Froude, 1905], ad 
loc.). In this discussion Thirtle suggests 
that many of the Psalms had not only a 
prescript but also a postscript. Some of 
the ancient Egyptian and Akkadian 
hymns have been preserved to us with 
a final notation. This makes it quite 
possible that in the later compilation of 
the canonical Psalms the scribes be- 
came confused by the presence of 
postscripts and assumed that they 
should be taken as part of the prescript 
for the psalm following. This estab- 
lishes a certain likelihood that the first 
part, at least of the title of Psalm 30 (“A 
Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the 
House”) was originally a closing nota- 
tion attached at the end of Psalm 29. 
This would leave only “A Psalm of 
David” as the true heading for Psalm 
30. If this was the case, then the prob- 
lem of inappropriateness disappears 
completely. 

Should not the name in the title to Psalm 
34 be Achish rather than Abimelech? 

The title to Psalm 34 reads: “A 
Psalm of David; when he feigned 
madness before Abimelech, who drove 
him away and he departed” (nasb). 
This is probably a reference to the epi- 
sode related in 1 Samuel 21:13, when 
in order to escape arrest as an enemy 
of the Philistines, David pretended be- 
fore King Achish of Gath that he had 


243 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


become insane. Reluctant to treat him 
like a responsible wrongdoer, King 
Achish ordered him to be expelled 
from the city and sent away. The ap- 
pearance of the name “Abimelech” in- 
stead of “Achish” may be an error on 
the part of the editors of the Psalter, 
who added the titles to the Psalms for 
which titles are supplied. On the other 
hand, the biography of King David was 
known to the Hebrew people better 
than that of any other king of Israel; 
and it is most unlikely that this kind 
of a blunder could have been made 
by a knowledgeable editor of a later 
generation. 

It is far more likely that the refer- 
ence to Abimelech was no blunder at 
all, but actually refers to a second 
name of King Achish. Just as Gideon 
also bore the name of Jerubbaal (Judg. 
6:32; 7:1, etc.), Solomon was also 
named Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25), and 
Zedekiah was also called Mattaniah (2 
Kings 24:17), so also the kings of the 
Philistines may have borne more than 
one name. Actually the earliest Philis- 
tine king ever mentioned in Genesis 
was King Abimelech of Gerar (20:2), 
followed later in the time of Isaac by 
Abimelech II (26:1). It would seem 
that Abimelech became a kind of re- 
current dynastic name, a little like 
“Darius” in Persia (the first Darius ac- 
tually bore the name Spantadata be- 
fore his coronation in 522, and the 
personal name of Darius the Mede 
[Dan. 5:31; 6:1; 9:1] was probably 
Gubaru [Dar e yawes was probably a 
throne-name meaning “Royal One”]). 
All the kings of Egypt bore at least two 
names (the nesu-bity name, which was a 
personal name; and a sa-Ra’ name, 
which was a dynastic title, often recur- 
ring in the titulary of members of the 
same dynastic chain); so it should occa- 
sion no surprise if some of the Phil- 
istine kings, profoundly influenced 
by the culture of their neighboring 
super-power, followed a similar prac- 
tice. 


No other names of Philistine kings 
are given in the Old Testament except 
the two already mentioned, Abimelech 
and Achish. Assyrian sources, how- 
ever, mention an Aziri or Azuri, king 
of Ashdod (Pritchard, ANET, p. 286), 
whom Sargon II replaced by his 
younger brother, Ahimiti, and Sidqia, 
king of Ashkelon, preceded by Ru- 
kibtu and succeeded by Sharrulu- 
dari (ibid., p. 287), along with Padi, 
king of Ekron, whom Sennacherib 
restored to his throne as a loyal vas- 
sal. At the same period Sillibel was 
king of Gaza (ibid., p. 288). Essarhad- 
don mentioned Mitinti as king of Ash- 
kelon (ibid., p. 291) and Ikausu as 
king of Ekron — and very significantly, 
also, an A-himilki (the same name 
as Ahimelech, and very close to Abime- 
lech in formation) as king of Ashdod. 
This furnishes a strong degree of 
likelihood that names like Abimelech 
persisted among Philistine royalty 
from the eleventh to the eighth cen- 
tury B.C. 

What is the significance of “O Lord, when 
thou awakest” in Psalm 73:20? According 
to Psalm 121:3-4, God does not sleep. (D*) 

The verb translated “awakest” is 
ba’ir, meaning “to awake,” “to act in 
aroused manner.” It is used here 
figuratively for bestirring oneself into 
action appropriate to a situation. In 
this context no Hebrew would draw 
the inference that God had to be liter- 
ally asleep before He could rouse Him- 
self into action. This is anthropomor- 
phic language when applied to God; 
that is, God is represented as behaving 
or reacting in terms appropriate to 
humans with bodily parts and limbs. In 
His essential being, God is spirit and 
therefore does not have a “body, parts 
or passions,” as traditional theology 
defines it. (Yet the Bible definitely 
teaches that He does feel the emotions 
of love, sorrow, or anger, when the oc- 
casion calls for it.) 


244 


PSALMS 


So in this case, while it is true that 
God “neither slumbers nor sleeps” in 
the sense of losing consciousness or 
contact with the reality about Him, He 
may remain unresponsive or inactive 
in situations where we might expect 
Him to act decisively. When He finally 
bestirs Himself to display His power 
and enforce His will, it is as if He had 
aroused Himself into action, like a man 
awakening out of slumber and con- 
fronting a situation demanding his 
immediate response. (Compare the 
similar language in Ps. 35:23: “Stir up 
yourself [using the same verb as above] 
and awake [haqisah from the verb qis, 
meaning ‘awake’ in the hiphil stem] to 
the justice due me.”) 

How could a true man of God, as the 
psalmist in Psalm 137:8-9, rejoice at the 
prospect of dashing infants against the 
rocks? 

Psalm 137 was composed by a 
member of the captivity of Judah, who 
had witnessed the sadistic brutality of 
the Chaldean soldiers in the time of 
the capture of Jerusalem in 587 b.c. 
He had seen how those heartless mon- 
sters had wrenched away helpless 
babies from their mothers’ arms and 
then had smashed out their brains 
against the corner of the nearest wall, 
laughing uproariously in their mali- 
cious glee, and uttering the grossest 
blasphemy against the God of Israel as 
they carried on their wanton butchery. 
The challenge to the sovereignty and 
honor of the one true God, which they 
hurled at Him as they massacred His 
people, could not forever go unan- 
swered. As the guardian and enforcer 
of His own moral law, God could man- 
ifest His glory only by visiting a terrible 
vengeance on those who had so dealt 
with their unresisting captives and 
poured contempt on their God. 

The captive exile who composed 
these words, therefore, felt altogether 
justified in calling on God to enforce 


the sanctions of His law and mete out 
appropriate retribution to those ma- 
levolent brutes who had committed 
these atrocities. Only thus could the 
pagan world be taught that there is a 
God in heaven who requires all men to 
regard the basic standards of right and 
wrong as truly binding on their con- 
sciences. They needed to learn that 
bloody violence practiced on others 
was sure to come back on themselves. 
The only way the heathen world could 
learn this lesson was to experience the 
fearsome consequences of trampling 
on the sanctions of humanity and have 
done to them what they had done to 
others. 

The time was to come when the 
victorious Medes and Persians would 
deal with the Babylonian babies just as 
the Babylonians had dealt with the 
Hebrew babies at the time the Jews 
went into captivity. The Babylonian 
babies would meet up with the same 
brutality the Babylonians had inflicted 
on others. Only thus could they be 
convinced of the sovereignty and 
power of the God of the Hebrews. So 
the chief motive for this prayer is not a 
vindictive desire for revenge; but, 
rather, it is an earnest wish that 
Yahweh would manifest Himself be- 
fore the jeering world by cata- 
strophically overthrowing the Chal- 
dean power that had wrought such 
misery and needless woe back in the 
days of Jerusalem’s demise. 

It should, of course, be added that in 
our present age subsequent to Calvary, 
God has another way in which to show 
His terrible judgment on sin. He sac- 
rificed His only beloved Son in order 
to atone for the guilt of all sinners 
everywhere. The overthrow of wicked, 
bloodstained political leaders and their 
degenerate followers still goes on even 
down to our present generation; but it 
is not quite so necessary now as it was 
before the coming of the Lord Jesus 
that God vindicate His righteousness 
and justice by spectacular strokes of re- 


245 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


tributive justice. Moreover, since the 
sinless Son of God has supremely man- 
ifested God’s wrath against sin by of- 
fering up His own life on the cross as 
an atonement for the sins of mankind, 
it is not so imperative as it was in the 
Old Testament age for God to man- 
ifest His righteousness through penal 
judgments of a catastrophic kind. 

It is less appropriate for New Tes- 
tament believers to offer up the same 
call for vengeance as this psalm ex- 
presses. Nevertheless we must not ig- 
nore the passages found even in the 
latest New Testament book of all, Rev- 
elation, which in 6:10 articulates the 
appeal of the martyred saints from the 
time of the Tribulation: “How long, O 
Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain 
from judging and avenging our blood 
on those who dwell on the earth?” As 
the arrogant godlessness of the End 
Time mounts to a Satan-inspired cli- 
max of brutality and bloodshed, it is 
appropriate to pray with great ear- 
nestness that God will intervene to 
crush the wicked and visit on a rebelli- 
ous world the destruction that it so 
richly deserves. 

Does the Bible class abortion with mur- 
der? 

Surgical abortion was hardly possi- 
ble until the development of modern 
techniques in the operating room; in 
ancient times the babies were killed in 
the womb only when their mother was 
also slain. An example is Amos 1:13: 
“Thus says the Lord, ‘For three trans- 
gressions of the sons of Ammon and 
for four I will not revoke its punish- 
ment, because they ripped open the 
pregnant women of Gilead in order to 
enlarge their borders’” (nasb). But 
now that the United States Supreme 
Court has questioned the human status 
of a fetus in the womb until it reaches 
an advanced stage of gestation, it be- 
comes essential to establish from Scrip- 
ture what God's view is on this matter. 


At what stage does God consider the 
fetus to be a human being, so that the 
taking of its life may be considered 
manslaughter? 

Psalm 139:13 indicates very defi- 
nitely that God’s personal regard for 
the embryo begins from the time of its 
inception. The psalmist says, “For 
Thou didst form my inward parts; 
Thou didst weave me in my mother’s 
womb” (nasb). Verse 16 continues, 
“Thine eyes have seen my unformed 
substance; and in Thy book they were 
all written, the days that were ordained 
for me, when as yet there was not one 
of them” (nasb). It is reassuring to 
know that even though many thou- 
sands of embryos and fetuses are de- 
liberately aborted every year through- 
out the world, God cares about the 
unborn and takes personal knowledge 
of them just as truly before they are 
born as after their delivery. He has 
their genetic code all worked out and 
has a definite plan for their lives (ac- 
cording to v.16). 

In Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord says to the 
young prophet on the threshold of his 
career, “Before I formed you in the 
womb I knew you, and before you 
were born I consecrated you; I have 
appointed you a prophet to the na- 
tions” (nasb). This certainly implies 
that God foreknew this lad even before 
he was conceived in his mother’s womb. 
Apparently we human beings have an 
identity in God’s mind that is estab- 
lished “from everlasting” — long before 
conception as an embryo. Second, 
the verse teaches that it is God Himself 
who forms that fetus and governs and 
controls all those “natural” processes 
that bring about the miracle of human 
life. Third, God has a definite plan and 
purpose for our lives, and each of us 
really matters to Him. Therefore any- 
one who takes the life of any human 
being at any stage in his life’s career 
will have to reckon with God. “Who- 
ever sheds man’s blood, by man his 
blood shall be shed, for in the image of 


246 


PSALMS 


God He made man” (Gen. 9:6, nasb). 
When does an embryo begin to be a 
creature made in the image of God? 
From the moment of conception in the 
womb, Scripture says. Therefore God 
will require his blood at the hands of his 
murderer, whether the abortionist be a 
medical doctor or a nonprofessional. 

In Isaiah 49: 1 , the messianic Servant 
of the Lord is quoted as saying, 
“Yahweh has called Me from the 
womb; from the body of My mother 
He named Me.” This raises the in- 
teresting question for the Supreme 
Court to answer: At what point in the 
gestation period of Christ in Mary’s 
womb did the Lord Jesus begin to be 
the Son of God? At what time between 
conception and birth would an abor- 
tion of that Baby have amounted to 
heinous sacrilege? After three months? 
After three days? After three minutes? 
The angel said to Mary at the Annun- 
ciation: “The Holy Spirit will come 
upon you, and the power of the Most 
High will overshadow you; so the holy 
one to be born will be called the Son 
of God” (Luke 1:35). When did the 
miracle of the Incarnation take place? 
Was it not at the very moment of 
conception? 

Luke 1:15 brings out a similar point 
concerning John the Baptist: “For he 
will be great in the sight of the Lord 
. . . and he will be filled with the Holy 
Spirit even from birth.” We are not 
told at what stage in his mother’s preg- 
nancy that greatest of all human 
prophets (Matt. 11:11) began to be 
filled with the Third Person of the Trin- 
ity; but it may well have been earlier 
than the stage set by the Supreme 
Court as being “viable.” What we do 
know for certain is that at about six 
months of gestation John’s mother, 
Elizabeth, felt him leap in her womb 
when Mary entered the room (Luke 
1:41,44); for Elizabeth cried out with 
joy after Mary greeted her: “When the 
sound of your greeting reached my 
ears, the baby in my womb leaped for 


joy.” The Third Person of the Trinity 
responded with joy when the future 
mother of Jesus Christ, the Second 
Person, came into the same room. How 
fortunate for the human race that no 
abortionist’s knife came near either of 
those two embryos! 

In earlier years of the current abor- 
tion controversy, it used to be said even 
by some Evangelical scholars that Exo- 
dus 21:22-25 implied that the killing 
of an unborn fetus involved a lesser 
degree of culpability than the slaughter 
of a child already born. This was 
based on an unfortunate mistrans- 
lation of the Hebrew original. Even the 
text rendering of the nasb perpetuates 
this misunderstanding, quite as much 
as the kjv: “And if men struggle with 
each other and strike a woman with 
child so that she has a miscarriage, yet 
there is no further injury, he shall 
surely be fined as the woman’s hus- 
band may demand of him; and he shall 
pay as the judges decide. But if there is 
any further injury, then you shall ap- 
point as a penalty life for life, eye for 
eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, 
foot for foot, etc.” 

In the margin the nasb acknowl- 
edges that ufyaf’u fladeyah (which it 
renders “so that she has a miscarriage”) 
literally means “her children come 
out.” The same term used for a child 
from infancy to the age of twelve is 
used here: yeled in the singular, 
y e ladim in the plural. (The plural is 
used here because the woman might be 
pregnant with twins when this injury 
befalls her.) The result of this blow to 
her womb is that her child (children) 
will be aborted from her womb and (if 
she is fortunate) will come forth alive. 

The second important observation is 
that the “further” inserted by nasb (in 
italics) does not appear in the Hebrew, 
nor — in the opinion of this writer — is it 
even implied in the Hebrew. The He- 
brew as it stands (for the third clause) 
is perfectly clear: “and there is no in- 
jury” (w e lo’ yihyeh ’ason). Thus the 


247 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


whole sentence really should be trans- 
lated “And when men struggle to- 
gether and strike a pregnant woman 
[or ‘wife’] and her children come forth, 
but there is no injury, he shall be cer- 
tainly fined, as the husband of the 
woman shall impose on him, and he 
shall give [or ‘pay’] in [the presence of] 
the judges; but if there shall be an in- 
jury, then you shall pay life for life 
[nepes tahat napes]." 

There is no ambiguity here what- 
ever. What is required is that if there 
should be an injury either to the 
mother or to her children, the injury 
shall be avenged by a like injury to the 
assailant. If it involves the life (ne-pes) 
of the premature baby, then the assail- 
ant shall pay for it with his life. There 
is no second-class status attached to the 
fetus under this rule; he is avenged 
just as if he were a normally delivered 
child or an older person: life for life. 
Or if the injury is less, but not serious 
enough to involve inflicting a like in- 
jury on the offender, then he may 
offer compensation in monetary dam- 
ages, according to the amount pre- 
scribed by the husband of the injured 
woman. Monetary damages usually are 
required when a baby is born prema- 
turely, for there are apt to be extra ex- 
penses both for medical attention and 
for extra care. 

If, then, the taking of the life of 
a human fetus is to be classed as 
homicide — as the Bible clearly im- 
plies — the question arises as to whether 
such homicide is ever justifiable. Nat- 
urally we are not talking about the 
imposition of public justice against 
offenders who have been officially 
tried and convicted of such crimes 
as the worship of false gods, infant 
sacrifice, witchcraft, blasphemy against 
Yahweh, first-degree murder, adul- 
tery, incest (execution for these crimes 
was to be by stoning, the sword, or 
burning at the stake [cf. Lev. 20:2- 
5,14,20,27; 24:15-17; Deut. 13:1-5, 
15; 17:2-7; 22:22-24]). Such punitive 


measures are to be classed as execution 
rather than homicide. But in a case of 
self-defense or of defending the home 
against a burglar during the night 
(Exod. 22:2), the taking of human life 
was considered justified in order to 
prevent an even greater injustice by 
allowing the criminal to victimize or 
slaughter the innocent. 

There is no specific treatment in the 
Bible of the problem posed when the 
continuance of the fetus in the womb 
means a serious threat to the life of the 
mother. It may be reasonably con- 
cluded that an actual life is of more 
intrinsic value than a potential life — 
especially if the well-being of other 
children is at stake. 

In most cases it turns out that babies 
who would have turned out to be so 
defective as to be incapable of a mean- 
ingful life die at childbirth or soon af- 
terward. Nevertheless, there are some 
who never achieve human rationality 
and survive for a period of years. Un- 
like the ancients, we now have diagnos- 
tic techniques that can warn the obste- 
trician or the expectant mother that the 
uterus contains such a freak and that 
only a harrowing heartbreak is in store 
for the family and parents if the fetus 
is allowed to come to full term. Con- 
ceivably a case can be made out for the 
termination of its life by abortion. But 
this is a very dubious procedure to fol- 
low unless the malformation of the 
embryo is established beyond all 
doubt. It is usually better to let “na- 
ture” (i.e., the good providence of 
God) take its course. 

In the case of involuntary concep- 
tions such as rape or incest, while the 
injustice to the pregnant woman is be- 
yond question, it is more than doubtful 
whether the injustice done to the un- 
born child is not even greater, should 
its life be terminated by surgery before 
it is born. The psychological trauma to 
the mother may be severe, and yet it is 
capable of being successfully handled 
by one who is innocent of wrongdoing 


248 


PSALMS 


and has no consciousness of personal 
guilt in the whole affair. It can be 
coped with by a submissive faith and 
trust in God for ability to handle the 
new situation created by the arrival of 
the baby. If the mother should feel 
unwilling to raise the child herself, 
there are many other childless couples 
who would be glad to adopt the little 
one and raise it as their own. 

In the case of incest, adoption is al- 
most obligatory, since it would be al- 
most impossible for a child fathered by 
its grandfather or uncle to maintain 
any kind of self-respect if it should 
later find out the truth. Nevertheless 


this tragic consequence can be avoided 
through adoption, and it is very ques- 
tionable whether abortion would be 
justified even under such an extreme 
circumstance as incest. The child’s 
right to live should remain the para- 
mount consideration in almost every 
instance. (Perhaps it should be pointed 
out in this connection that according 
to Gen. 19:36-38, the ancestor of 
the Moabite nation and that of the 
Ammonite nation were both born 
from an incestuous relationship — 
though in that special case the father, 
Lot, was hardly responsible for this 
offense.) 


249 


Proverbs 


In view of Solomon’s personal life, how 
could his writings be part of Holy Scrip- 
ture? How could the Bible call him the 
wisest of men? (D*) 

Solomon began his career on the 
basis of high ideals and lofty princi- 
ples. First Kings 3:3 states: “Now Sol- 
omon loved the Lord, walking in the 
statutes of his father David, except he 
sacrificed and burned incense on the 
high places” (nasb) — as well as at the 
Jerusalem sanctuary of Yahweh, where 
he should have carried on all his altar 
worship (Deut. 12:10-14). In his sol- 
emn dedication of himself to the Lord 
for service, he modestly asked nothing 
for himself but the gift of “an under- 
standing heart” (lit., "a hearing heart”) 
so as to “judge Thy people to discern 
between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). 
God said He would give him “a wise 
and discerning heart, so that there has 
been no one like you before you, nor 
shall one like you arise after you” 
(v. 12, nasb). In 1 Kings 4:29 [MT: 
1 Kings 5:9] we read, “Now God gave 
Solomon wisdom [ho-kmah] and very 
great discernment | f-bunah] and 
breadth of mind [roha-b le-b], like the 
sand that is on the seashore” (nasb). 
Verse 30 then states, “And Solomon’s 
wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all 
the sons of the east and all the wisdom 
of Egypt” (nasb). Verse 31 affirms 
that he was “wiser than all men” — even 
wiser than the most famous sages be- 
fore his time (Ethan, Heman, Calcol, 


and Darda), and his reputation spread 
throughout all the Near East. 

The gift of wisdom bestowed on Sol- 
omon pertained particularly to matters 
of government — as a judge between 
quarreling litigants (1 Kings 3:16-28), 
as the builder of architectural and 
artistic masterpieces, as an inspired 
leader in public worship (at the dedica- 
tion of the temple), as fortifier of city 
defenses and the formation of large 
armies with advanced military equip- 
ment, and as the promoter of world- 
wide commerce and a thriving domes- 
tic economy. The Lord also gave him 
wisdom in matters of science (all 
branches of botany and zoology), ac- 
cording to 1 Kings 4:33, and in the 
mastery of poetry and proverbial liter- 
ature (v.32 speaks of 3000 proverbs 
and 1,005 songs). 

The Book of Proverbs contains some 
of the finest teaching ever written con- 
cerning a godly and fruit-bearing life, 
and it contains repeated and eloquent 
warnings against sexual license and 
toleration of crime and collaboration 
with ruthless criminals. It teaches the 
fine art of getting along harmoniously 
with others, yet without compromising 
moral principle. There can be no 
doubt of the high caliber of Solomon’s 
surpassing wisdom and skill as a 
teacher and as a leader in government. 
There is no good reason to doubt the 
inspiration of his three great works: 
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of 
Solomon. 


250 


PROVERBS 


On the other hand, we read in 1 
Kings 1 1 how he engaged in plural 
marriage to utter excess, partly on the 
basis of diplomacy with foreign na- 
tions. Verse 1 says, “Now King Sol- 
omon loved many foreign women 
along with the daughter of Pharaoh: 
Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sido- 
nian, and Hittite women” (nasb). 
Verse 2 goes on to point out Solomon’s 
sin in contracting all these marriages 
with pagan women, referring to 
Exodus 34:12-16 and its prohibition of 
marrying or covenanting with unbe- 
lieving heathen. Verse 3 records his 
enlargement of his harem to seven 
hundred wives and three hundred- 
concubines and his consequent tolera- 
tion of — or even cooperation with — 
the worship of the false gods that his 
foreign wives brought with them. His 
particular attention went to Ashtoreth 
of Sidon and Milcom of the Ammon- 
ites (v.5). Verse 6 concludes with this 
depressing report: “And Solomon did 
what was evil in the sight of the Lord, 
and did not follow the Lord fully, as 
David his father had done” (nasb). He 
even built a shrine for Chemosh, god 
of Moab, and one for Molech “the de- 
testable idol of the sons of Ammon” 
(v.7). 

Quite clearly, then, the gift of wis- 
dom did not include the gift of faith- 
fulness to moral principle, so far as his 
personal relations were concerned. He 
knew perfectly well that Deuteronomy 
17:16-17 had sternly warned against 
the very vices he had indulged in: mul- 
tiplying of horses, wives, silver, and 
gold. He was well able to instruct oth- 
ers in the wisdom of moderation and 
self-control, and he had a fine mental 
grasp of the insight that the “fear of 
Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom” 
(Prov. 1:7). But as he found himself 
invested with absolute power, bound- 
less wisdom, honor, and limitless 
wealth to acquire or pay for whatever 
he wanted, he began to indulge his 
carnal desires without restraint. 


In Ecclesiastes 2:10 Solomon con- 
fesses “And all that my eyes desired I 
did not refuse them. I did not withhold 
my heart from any pleasure, for my 
heart was pleased because of all my la- 
bor and this was my reward for all my 
labor” (nasb). He condemned him- 
self to a life of experimentation with 
every pleasure or advantage that spells 
happiness to the child of this world. 
And yet, as he testifies in Ecclesiastes, 
he found that all this “satisfaction” 
brought neither contentment, happi- 
ness, nor a feeling of meaningful ac- 
complishment after it was all over. 
Hence he was driven to see on the basis 
of his own personal experience, as well 
as on the basis of theory and revelation 
from God, that no activity or accom- 
plishment “under the sun” (i.e., relat- 
ing to this present sin-ridden, transient 
world, without reference to God above 
or the world beyond) amounts to any- 
thing but frustration, futility, and de- 
spair. “Vanity of vanities! all is vanity,” 
says the Preacher. 

The life of Solomon is a solemn re- 
minder that wisdom is an attainment 
quite distinct from a sincere heart ani- 
mated by a real love for God’s will. Wis- 
dom is not equivalent to godliness — 
“the fear of the Lord.” And yet without 
godliness no wise man will use his wis- 
dom to a consistently good purpose, so 
far as his own life is concerned. There is 
a radical evil in the human heart (Jer. 
17:9), and it can coexist with a perfect 
knowledge of God’s truth. There is no 
logical reason for Solomon to have de- 
filed his personal life the way he did. It 
was simply that he allowed himself to be 
corrupted by his wealth and power, and 
he gradually sank into a state of aliena- 
tion toward God without fully realizing 

Nevertheless, at the end of his life, 
Solomon came to see that no attain- 
ment or enjoyment brought any real or 
lasting satisfaction if it was done for 
self and for this world — “under the 
sun.” He found it all meaningless and 


251 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


empty, and he ended up with one big 
zero. From the tone of Ecclesiastes and 
its clear warning that it is profitless to 
gain the whole world and lose one’s 
own soul, we are led to believe that 
Solomon tried to get right with God 
and repented of his unfaithfulness and 
folly in sinning against the light that 
had been given him. His legacy to all 
believers with a wandering, willful, 
self-centered heart was that any life 
not lived for God turns to dust and 
ashes, heartbreak and despair. Sol- 
omon concluded by saying, “Now all 
has been heard; here is the conclusion 
of the matter: Fear God and keep His 
commandments, for this is the whole 
duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). 

Our conclusion is this: The three 
books Solomon wrote are true and 
profitable because he was inspired by 
God as he wrote them. He was a man 
of surpassing wisdom but also of sur- 
passing folly so far as his private life 
was concerned. And he himself came 
to recognize and bitterly regret this be- 
fore he died. 

Does Proverbs 22:6 always work for the 
children of believers? 

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child 
in the way he should go, even when he 
is old he will not depart from it” 
(nasb). NIV renders the second line 
thus: “And when he is old he will not 
turn from it.” Before discussing the 
practical application of this verse, we 
should examine quite carefully what it 
actually says. The literal rendering of 
the Hebrew h a nok lanna'ar is “Initi- 
ate, train the boy” ( na'ar refers to a 
young male from childhood until he 
reaches majority); the verb hanak does 
not occur elsewhere in the Old Testa- 
ment with the meaning “train up.” 
Normally the verb means “dedicate” (a 
house or a temple [Deut. 20:5; 1 Kings 
8:63; 2 Chron. 7:5], or else a dedica- 
tion offering [Num. 7:10]). This seems 
to be cognate with the Egyptian h-n-k 


(“give to the gods,” “set up something 
for divine service”). This gives us the 
following range of possible meanings: 
“Dedicate the child to God,” “Prepare 
the child for his future responsibili- 
ties,” “Exercise or train the child for 
adulthood.” 

Next we come to what is translated 
“in the way he should go.” Literally, it 
is “according to his way” (‘al-pi darko)-, 
'al-pi (lit., “according to the mouth of’) 
generally means “after the measure 
of,” “conformably to,” or “according 
to.” As for darko, it comes from derek 
(“way”); and this may refer to “the 
general custom of, the nature of, the 
way of acting, the behavior pattern of” 
a person. This seems to imply that the 
manner of instruction is to be gov- 
erned by the child’s own stage of life, 
according to his personal bent, or else, 
as the standard translations render it, 
according to the way that is proper for 
him — in the light of God’s revealed 
will, according to the standards of his 
community or his cultural heritage. In 
this highly theological, God-centered 
context (“Yahweh is the maker” of 
both the rich and the poor [v.2]; “The 
reward of humility and the fear of 
Yahweh is riches, honor, and life” 
[v.4]), there can be little doubt that “his 
way” here implies “his proper way” in 
the light of the goals and standards set 
forth in v.4 and tragically neglected by 
the “perverse” in v.5. Yet there may 
also be a connotation that each child is 
to be reared and trained for God’s serv- 
ice according to the child’s own per- 
sonal and peculiar needs and traits. 

The second line reads gam ki (“even 
when”) yazqin (“he gets old” — zaqen is 
the word for “old” or “an elder”), Id’ 
yasur (“he will not turn away”) mim- 
mennah (“from it,” i.e., from his derek), 
which seems to strengthen the in- 
terpretation “his proper way,” “be- 
havior pattern,” or “lifestyle” as a 
well-trained man of God or good citi- 
zen in his community. 

What this all adds up to, then, is the 


252 


PROVERBS 


general principle (and all the general 
maxims in Proverbs concerning hu- 
man conduct are of this character, 
rather than laying down absolute 
guarantees to which there may never 
be an exception) that when a godly 
parent gives proper attention to the 
training of his child for adult responsi- 
bility and for a well-ordered life lived 
for God, then he may confidently ex- 
pect that that child — even though he 
may stray during his young adult- 
hood — will never be able to get away 
completely from his parental training 
and from the example of a God- 
fearing home. Even when he becomes 
old, he will not depart from it. Or else, 
this gam ki may imply that he will re- 
main true to this training throughout his 
life, even when he gets old. 

Does this verse furnish us with an 
iron-clad guarantee that all the chil- 
dren of conscientious, God-fearing, 
nobly living parents will turn out to be 
true servants of God? Will there never 
be any rebellious children, who will 
turn their backs on their upbringing 
and fall into the guilt and shame of a 
Satan-dominated life? One might con- 
strue the verse that way, perhaps; but 
it is more than doubtful that the in- 
spired Hebrew author meant it as an 
absolute promise that would apply in 
every case. These maxims are meant to 
be good, sound, helpful advice; they 
are not presented as surefire promises 
of infallible success. 

The same sort of generality is found 
in Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is 
bound up in the heart of a child; the 
rod of discipline will remove it far 


from him” (nasb). This surely does not 
mean that all children are equally 
willful and rebellious and that all of 
them stand in need of the same 
amount and type of discipline. Nor 
does it guarantee that a person 
brought up in a well-disciplined home 
will never stray off into the folly of sin. 
There may be exceptions who turn out 
to be worldly minded egotists or even 
lawbreakers who end up in prison. But 
the rate of success in childrearing is ex- 
tremely high when the parents follow 
the guidelines of Proverbs. 

What are those guidelines? Children 
are to be accepted as sacred trusts from 
God; they are to be trained, cherished, 
and disciplined with love; and they are 
to be guided by a consistent pattern of 
godliness followed by the parents 
themselves. This is what is meant by 
bringing them up “in the discipline 
and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).” 
This type of training implies a policy of 
treating children as even more impor- 
tant than one’s own personal conveni- 
ence or social life away from home. It 
means impressing on them that they 
are very important persons in their own 
right because they are loved by God, 
and because He has a wonderful and 
perfect plan for their lives. Parents who 
have faithfully followed these princi- 
ples and practices in rearing their 
children may safely entrust them as 
adults to the keeping and guidance of 
God and feel no sense of personal 
guilt if a child later veers off course. 
They have done their best before God. 
The rest is up to each child himself. 


253 


Ecclesiastes 


How could such a skeptical book as 
Ecclesiastes be canonical? 

It is often alleged that Qohelet (“the 
Preacher,” the Hebrew term rendered 
by the Septuagint as Ekklesiastes ) rep- 
resents a cynical departure from nor- 
mative Hebrew faith. Solomon, the 
Preacher, expresses an agnostic at- 
titude about what happens to a man 
after he dies: “For who knows what is 
good for a man during his lifetime, 
during the few days of his futile life? 
He will spend them like a shadow. For 
who can tell a man what will be after 
him under the sun?” (6:12, nasb). Or 
again, “I have seen everything during 
my lifetime of futility; there is a righ- 
teous man who perishes in his righ- 
teousness, and there is a wicked man 
who prolongs his life in his wickedness. 
Do not be excessively righteous, and 
do not be overly wise. Why should you 
ruin yourself?” (7:15-16, nasb). Ex- 
treme pessimism in the face of death 
seems to be conveyed by 9:4-5: “For 
whoever is joined with the living, there 
is hope; surely a live dog is better than 
a dead lion. For the living know they 
will die; but the dead do not know any- 
thing, nor have they any longer a re- 
ward, for their memory is forgotten” 
(nasb). 

Taken in isolation, these above pas- 
sages do indeed sound skeptical about 
the spiritual dimension of human life 
and the worthwhileness of earnest en- 
deavor. There are some statements 


that sound almost hedonistic, such as 
“For what does a man get in all his 
labor? . . . Because all his days his task 
is painful and grievous. . . . There is 
nothing better for a man than to eat 
and drink and tell himself that his 
labor is good” (2:22-24, nasb). But this 
work is a masterpiece of philosophical 
insight that must be taken together as 
an organic whole, rather than its being 
taken out of context. Only then can its 
real contribution to the whole counsel 
of God set forth in Scripture be prop- 
erly and intelligently evaluated. 

A careful synthetic study of Ec- 
clesiastes brings out the true pur- 
pose and theme of its author. After he 
has tried every other avenue to the 
highest value in human life, Solomon 
gives his personal testimony as to the 
emptiness and disgust that resulted 
from his tasting to the full all that the 
world could offer him in the way of 
satisfaction and pleasure. It all turned 
out to be futile and unworthy, com- 
pletely lacking in ultimate satisfaction. 
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (1:2). 
The announced purpose of his search 
for the summum bonum was to try out 
every type of pleasure or practical 
achievement possible (2:2-8), even in- 
cluding the achievement of top distinc- 
tion in philosophy and knowledge 
(v.9). “All that my eyes desired I did 
not refuse them. I did not withhold my 
heart from any pleasure, for my heart 
was pleased because of all my labor 
and this was my [temporary and 


254 


ECCLESIASTES 


evanescent] reward for all my labor. 
Thus I considered all my activities 
which my hands had done and the 
labor which I had exerted, and behold 
all was vanity and striving after wind 
and there was no profit under the sun” 
(vv. 10-11, nasb). In other words, it is 
as if this wise, wealthy, and powerful 
king had undertaken a trial of Jesus’ 
later challenge: “What shall it profit a 
man if he gain the whole world and 
lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26). And 
so he set about gaining the whole 
world and the full enjoyment of all 
the pleasures and satisfactions that this 
life could give him, and he found that 
in the long run they added up to zero. 

The key term throughout this book 
is tahat hassemes (“under the sun”). 
The whole perspective is of this world. 
The natural man who has never taken 
God seriously falls into the delusion 
that “this world is all there is.” Well 
then, replies the Preacher, if this world 
is all there is, let us find out by experi- 
ence whether there is anything ulti- 
mately worthwhile in this world — 
anything that yields real satisfaction. 
The result of his extensive experiment, 
carried on under the most favorable 
conditions possible, was that nothing 
but meaninglessness and profound 
disappointment await the secularistic 
materialist. All his ambitions, though 
fully achieved, all his lusts, though 
fully indulged, lead only to revulsion 
and nausea. For him life is “a tale told 
by an idiot, full of sound and fury, sig- 
nifying nothing.” 

The message that comes through 
loud and clear in Ecclesiastes is that 
true meaning in life is found only in a 
relationship with God. Unless there is 
in man’s heart a sincere regard for the 
will of God and an earnest desire to 
carry out His purposes, man’s life will 
end up a meaningless tragedy. “Al- 
though a sinner does evil a hundred 
times and may lengthen his life, still I 
know that it will be well for those who 
fear God, who fear Him openly” (8:12, 


nasb). This life takes on real meaning 
only as an arena of opportunity for 
man to serve God before he steps out 
into eternity. 

It is true that death overtakes the 
wise man and the fool alike, and all 
living creatures end up in the grave. 
After we are dead and confined in 
Sheol (or Hades), we have no more 
knowledge of what goes on in the 
world; there is no longer any opportu- 
nity for earning rewards (9:5), and our 
memory may be forgotten by future 
generations on earth. But the only 
conclusion to draw before we pass off 
this earthly scene is the need of coming 
to terms with God and His will for our 
lives. “Let us hear the conclusion of the 
whole matter: Fear God and keep His 
commandments, for this is the whole 
duty of man” (12:13). “Remember 
your Creator in the days of your youth, 
before the evil days come” (12:1). 
“Remember Him before the silver cord 
is broken and ... the pitcher by the 
well is shattered . . . then the dust [of 
your body] will return to the earth as it 
was, and the spirit [or ‘breath’] will re- 
turn to the God that gave it” (vv.6-7). 
Otherwise, “all is vanity” (v.8), for 
“God will bring every act to judgment, 
everything that is hidden, whether it is 
good or evil” (v. 14; cf. Matt. 10:26; 
Rom. 2:16). 

If Solomon was not really the author of 
Ecclesiastes, how can 1:1 be correct? 

Ecclesiastes 1 : 1 affirms that the book 
was composed by “the Preacher, the 
son of David, king in Jerusalem” 
(nasb). Yet many modern biblical 
scholars (Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, 
Leupold, Young, Zoeckler, etc.) be- 
lieve otherwise. For example, G.S. 
Hendry states, “The author does not 
really claim to be Solomon but places 
his words in Solomon’s mouth” (in 
Guthrie, New Bible Commentary, p. 571). 

While it is true that the author does 
not call himself “Solomon” but only re- 


255 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


fers to himself as Qohelet (related to the 
word qahal, “assembly,” “congrega- 
tion"), it does violence to the rights of 
language to assert that the author of 
this philosophical discourse does not 
claim to be the son of David, king in 
Jerusalem. While “son” (ben) occasion- 
ally is used of later generations (such as 
a grandson, great-grandson, or even 
remoter descendants than that), the 
other details the author gives concern- 
ing himself leave no doubt that he pre- 
sents himself to his readers as being 
King Solomon himself. He refers to his 
unrivaled wisdom (1:16), his unsur- 
passed wealth (2:8), his tremendous 
retinue of servants (2:7), his unlimited 
opportunities for carnal pleasure (2:3), 
and his very extensive building proj- 
ects. No other descendant of David 
measures up to these specifications ex- 
cept Solomon, David’s immediate suc- 
cessor. 

Most modern scholars admit that the 
purported author of Ecclesiastes is Solo- 
mon; but they maintain that this was 
simply a literary device employed by a 
later author, now unknown to us, who 
wished to teach the ultimate futility of 
a materialistic worldview. If this could 
be accepted as valid, it would certainly 
put in question almost every other 
affirmation of authorship to be found 
in any other book of the Bible. Some 
later, unknown author might equally 
well have pretended to be Isaiah, Jere- 
miah, Hosea, or the apostle Paul, sim- 
ply as “a literary device to express his 
own views.” If it were any other book 
than the Bible, this would have to be 
classified as forgery, a mere product 
of deception, which would render the 
actual author of such a spurious work 
liable to damages in a court of law. It is 
more than doubtful that a Bible that 
holds to such high standards of in- 
tegrity and honesty and that was certi- 
fied by the Lord Jesus and His apostles 
as being the infallible Word of God 
could be composed of spurious work 


by authors who paraded under assumed 
names. 

The chief argument against the au- 
thenticity of Ecclesiastes as a work of 
the historic Solomon is drawn from the 
data of linguistics. It is urged that the 
language and vocabulary of this book 
differ markedly from other tenth- 
century b.c. works composed in He- 
brew and contains many terms found 
in Aramaic documents (such as Daniel 
and the Talmud) or in late biblical 
or postbiblical Hebrew (such as Esther, 
Nehemiah and the Mishnah). Delitzsch 
drew up a list of ninety-six words, 
forms, and expressions found no- 
where else in the Bible except in Exilic 
and post-Exilic books like Ezra, Esther, 
Nehemiah, Chronicles, Malachi, or the 
Mishnah. Zoeckler claimed that there 
are Aramaisms in almost every verse, 
but Hengstenberg found only ten 
demonstrable Aramaisms in the entire 
twelve chapters. From the standpoint 
of possible political and social allu- 
sions, the fifth century b.c. is suggested 
as a possible time of composition. But 
these scholars fail to discuss the prob- 
lem that Ecclesiastes no more resembles 
fifth-century Hebrew works than it 
does those of the tenth century (apart 
from the Song of Solomon and 
Proverbs). 

James Muilenberg (“A Qohelet 
Scroll from Qumran,” Bulletin of the 
American Schools of Oriental Research 135 
[October 1954]: 20) comments on the 
discovery of mid-second-century frag- 
ments of Ecclesiastes discovered in 
Qumran Cave Four: 

Linguistically the book is unique. 
There is no question that its language 
has many striking peculiarities; these 
have been explained by some to be late 
Hebrew (discussed by Margoliouth and 
Gordis) lor which the language of the 
Mishnah is said to offer more than 
adequate support (a contention effec- 
tively answered ... in the Jewish Encyclo- 
pedia V, 33, where he points out the lin- 


256 


ECCLESIASTES 


guistic affinities of Qohelet with the 
Phoenician inscriptions, e.g., Eshmu- 
nazar, Tabnith). The Aramaic cast of 
the language has long been recognized, 
but only within recent years has its Ara- 
maic provenance been claimed and sup- 
ported in any detail (F. Zimmerman, 
C.C. Torrey, H.L. Ginsburg) . . . Dahood 
was written on Canaanite-Phoenician in- 
fluences in Qohelet, defending the thesis 
that the book of Ecclesiastes was orig- 
inally composed by an author who wrote 
in Hebrew but was influenced by Phoeni- 
cian spelling, grammar and vocabulary, 
and who shows heavy Canaanite-Phoe- 
nician literary influence ( Biblica 33, 
1952, pp. 35-52, 191-221). 

In weighing the force of the linguis- 
tic argument, it should be noted that a 
comprehensive survey of all the 
data — including vocabulary, morphol- 
ogy, syntax, and style — indicates that 
the text of Ecclesiastes does not re- 
semble the literary style or vocabulary 
of any book of the Hebrew Bible, or 
indeed of any later Hebrew work pre- 
served to us up into the second cen- 
tury b.c., when the earliest fragments 
of Ecclesiastes from Qumran are to be 
dated paleographically. The sole ex- 
ception would be the apocryphal Book 
of Ecclesiasticus, which is admittedly 
composed by an author (Jesus ben 
Sirach) who was profoundly influ- 
enced by Qohelet and tried to imitate its 
style and approach in many passages. 

In the judgment of this writer, the 
only convincing case of affinity is that 
advanced by Mitchell Dahood, re- 
ferred to by Muilenberg as quoted 
above. The reason for the peculiar vo- 
cabulary, syntax, and style seems to be 
found in the literary genre to which 
Ecclesiastes belonged — the genre of 
the philosophical discourse. If this par- 
ticular genre was first developed in 
Phoenicia, and if Solomon was well 
read in this whole area of wisdom liter- 
ature (cf. 1 Kings 4:30-34), there is 
every reason to believe that he deliber- 


ately chose to write in the idiom and 
style that had already been established 
for that genre. Dahood’s evidence is 
quite conclusive. Qohelet shows a 
marked tendency toward Phoenician 
spelling (which omitted vowel letters 
even for inflectional sufformatives), 
distinctively Phoenician inflections, 
pronouns, particular, syntactical con- 
structions, lexical borrowings, and 
analogies of various sorts. The alleged 
Aramaisms turn out to be employed 
also in the Phoenician inscriptions as 
well; so they prove little in the way of a 
late date of composition. 

As for Dahood himself, he tries to 
account for this close affinity to 
Phoenician by supposing that some 
sizable colony of Jewish refugees set- 
ded up in Phoenicia after the Fall of 
Jerusalem in 587 b.c., and then he 
suggests that it was this ‘emigre’ group 
that composed Qohelet. But this theory 
is well-nigh untenable in view of Nebu- 
chadnezzar’s relentless pursuit of 
all Jewish refugee groups, even to the 
point of invading Egypt in order to 
massacre the Jews who had fled there. 

Only one reasonable alternative re- 
mains. That period when Israel en- 
joyed the closest relations with Tyre 
and Sidon, on both the commercial 
and the political levels — and cultural as 
well (it was a Phoenician Jew named 
Hiram who designed and produced all 
the art work connected with the temple 
in Jerusalem, and large numbers of 
Phoenician artisans and craftsmen 
worked under his supervision) — was 
unquestionably the age of Solomon, 
that period when wisdom literature 
was most zealously cultivated. This was 
the era when Solomon composed his 
Proverbs, and he may have had a hand 
in popularizing the venerable Book of 
Job. From the standpoint of linguistics, 
then, and from the standpoint of com- 
parative literature and the known 
proclivities of the age, Solomon’s pe- 
riod in the tenth century b.c. must be 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


regarded as the most likely time for 
the composition of Ecclesiastes. (For 
the various arguments from internal 
evidence and “telltale expressions” ad- 
vanced by advocates of the late date 
theory, see my A Survey of Old Testa- 
ment Introduction, pp. 484-88.) 

Does Ecclesiastes 3:21 teach that animals 
have a spirit just as man does? 

Ecclesiastes 3:21 reads, “Who know- 
eth the spirit of man that goeth up- 
ward, and the spirit of the beast that 
goeth downward to the earth?” (kjv). 
Since it is usually understood that the 
spirit of man is the focal point of the 
divine image in man that enables him 
to reason and respond to God reli- 
giously, it sounds a bit startling to hear 
that the “spirit” of an animal goes 
downward, as its body (like man’s 
body) turns to dust in the grave (v.20). 
nasb alleviates the problem by translat- 
ing it as “breath”: “Who knows that the 
breath of man ascends upward and the 
breath of the beast descends down- 
ward to the earth?” But the basic prob- 
lem still remains, for the term ruah 
(“breath,” “spirit”) is used for both 
man and beast. This is true whether we 
understand v.2 1 as a question implying 
that there is real doubt as to where the 
“spirit” of man or beast really goes 
after death; or whether we are to take 
it as a regretful question, implying, 
“How many people really know this 
fact, that the breath of man goes up- 
ward and the breath of the beast goes 
downward, when they die?” (I person- 
ally incline to the latter interpretation, 
but it is possible that the author meant 
the question skeptically.) 

In this use of ruah, we face a familiar 
phenomenon in the history of the de- 
velopment of transcendental terms in 
almost every language. From the ob- 
servation that a living man or animal 
breathes in and out as long as it is alive, 
it is natural to derive a term such as 


“breath” and make it a symbol of life. 
Thus we have quite frequently in the 
Flood narrative the phrase ruah hayyim 
(“the breath of life”) as attributed to 
animals, both those that drowned in 
the Flood (Gen. 6:17; 7:22) and those 
that were preserved in the ark (Gen. 
7:15). In Genesis 7:22 it is even com- 
bined with nismat ruah hayyim (“the 
breath of the spirit of life” — n e samdh 
being a word used almost exclusively 
for literal breathing and nothing be- 
yond). The Egyptian phrase t\w ‘nh 
(“breath of life,” conventionally pro- 
nounced tchau ‘anekh) occurs very fre- 
quently in Egyptian literature, and it is 
possible that Moses had this expression 
in mind and translated it into the He- 
brew equivalent. 

Here, then, we have a general, non- 
technical use of ruah. as applied to 
animals possessed of life. I am not 
aware of any other passages where 
ruah is used with respect to animals. 
Apart from the 100 times where ruah 
is applied to “wind” or “winds,” the 
rest of its 275 occurrences pertain to 
human beings, angels (who are essen- 
tially ruah without any real, physical 
body), demonic spirits (who were for- 
merly angels of God, before Satan was 
cast out of heaven), or God Himself: 
the Third Person of the Trinity is spo- 
ken of as ruah ’ e ldhim (“the Spirit of 
God”) or ruah. Yahweh (“the Spirit of 
Yahweh [or, as mispronounced, ‘Jeho- 
vah’]”). 

As is so often the case with terms 
that began with a primitive and gen- 
eral meaning, it later became spe- 
cialized so as to acquire a technical, 
figurative meaning on a metaphysical 
level. The observation that living crea- 
tures breathe leads to the use of 
“breath” as a term for “life-principle.” 
From that point on it becomes a matter 
of usage whether to employ ruah, 
n e samah, or some other word referring 
to air in motion as a symbol for the 
spiritual element in man’s being — that 


258 


ECCLESIASTES 


which makes him distinctively human, 
as opposed to subhuman creatures that 
also have lungs and breathe. It is not 
because of some inherent root mean- 
ing, then, but because of established 
usage that ruah became the technical 
term for the image of God in man, that 
capacity for thinking of God and re- 
sponding to Him, that ability to com- 
prehend the difference between right 
and wrong and make moral decisions, 
that ability to reason in a generalizing, 
philosophical manner, which distin- 
guishes man from beasts. The corre- 
sponding term for this in the Septua- 
gint and in the New Testament is 
pneuma. In biblical usage, then, pneuma 
became equivalent to ruah. Appro- 
priately enough, pneuma also was de- 
rived from the verb pned (“to blow”). 

A closely related term for the non- 
physical element in man was nepes 
(“soul”). This too was derived from a 
root idea of breathing ( napasu in Ak- 
kadian meant “breathe freely,” then, 
“become broad or extended”; the 
noun napistu meant “breath” or “life”). 
But it became specialized to mean the 
individual identity of any living, breath- 
ing creature, whether man or animal 
(for both nepes and psyche, its Greek 
equivalent, are used freely for beasts as 
well as men). The nepes is the conscious 
center of emotions, desire or appetite, 
or inclination or mood. It is the locus 
of each man’s personality and the 
point of reference for his self-con- 
sciousness. Gustav Oehler defines 
nepes as springing from the ruah and as 
existing continually through it (a 
statement that could not be applied to 
animals, however); individuality re- 
sides in it, that is, in the man’s ego or 
self. It is interesting to note that nepes 
with the appropriate possessive pro- 
noun is the most frequent way of ex- 
pressing the reflexive pronoun in a 
specific way. Thus “he saved himself” 
would be expressed by “he saved his 
nepes [or ‘soul’]” (cited by J.I. Marais, 


“Soul,” in The International Standard 
Bible Encyclopedia, 5 vols., ed. by J. Orr 
[Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939], p. 
2838). 

It is to be noted, therefore, that 
there is a distinction between “spirit” 
(ruah) and “soul” (nepes) in the Old 
Testament, just as there is between 
pneuma and psyche in the New Testa- 
ment. These, in turn, are differ- 
entiated from the term for “body” 
(basar), which also (when used figura- 
tively) has a psychological meaning as 
well as the basic physical idea of a lit- 
eral, flesh-and-blood body. The basar 
is the seat of all sensations and the data 
supplied by the five senses: but it is also 
used in Psalm 84 in parallelism with 
nepes as the vehicle of a spiritual long- 
ing for the living God. The same is 
true in Psalm 63:1: “My soul [nepes] 
thirsts for Thee, my flesh [basar] 
yearns [lit., ‘faints’] for Thee, in a dry 
and weary land where there is no 
water” (nasb). Again, in Psalm 16:9 it is 
used in parallelism with “heart” (leb) 
and “glory” (kabod — a surrogate for 
ruah, which is the divine element in 
man): “Therefore my heart is glad, 
and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will 
dwell securely” (nasb). Thus the “flesh” 
is capable of feeling satisfaction in a 
state of security in the loving presence 
of God. 

The triune makeup of man is 
brought out even more clearly in the 
New Testament. In 1 Thessalonians 
5:23 Paul expresses this prayer for his 
readers: “Now may the God of peace 
Himself sanctify you entirely; and may 
your spirit [pneuma = ruah] and soul 
[psyche = nepes] and body [soma = ba- 
sar] be preserved complete, without 
blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus 
Christ . . .” (nasb). Quite clearly the 
spirit and the soul are differentiated 
here as distinct elements of the human 
psyche, and man is represented as 
triune in nature. This is exactly what 
we should expect, if man was really 


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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


created in the image of the Triune 
God (Gen. 1:26-27). 

A clear distinction between pneuma 
and psyche is unquestionably implied 
by 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, which de- 
fines the difference between a believer 
who is dominated by the pneuma (the 
pneumatikos, “spiritual man”) and the 
once-born “natural” man (the one 
dominated by his egoistic psyche ): “But 
a natural [psychikos] man does not ac- 
cept the things of the Spirit of God; for 
they are foolishness to him, and he 
cannot understand them, because they 
are spiritually [ pneumatikos ] appraised” 
(nasb). 

Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 15:44,46, 
the same distinction is maintained in 
reference to the transformation from a 
merely physical body (prior to death 


and resurrection) and a spiritual body 
(i.e., a body especially adapted to the 
needs and desires of the glorified spirit 
of the redeemed believer): “It is sown a 
natural [ psychikon ] body, it is raised a 
spiritual [pneumatikon] body” (nasb). In 
v.46 we read, “However, the spiritual is 
not first, but the natural; then the 
spiritual . . (nasb). Quite clearly 
then, the spirit is distinct from the soul, 
or else these verses add up to tautolog- 
ical nonsense. We therefore conclude 
that man is not dichotomic (to use the 
technical theological term) but tri- 
chotomic. (The fullest discussion of 
this question may be found in Franz 
Delitzsch, A System of Biblical Psychology, 
reprint ed. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 
1966].) 


260 


Son g of Solomon 


How did such a book as Song of Solomon 
get to be part of the Bible? 

There is no denying that the Song of 
Solomon (or Song of Songs, or Canti- 
cles, as it is variously called) is a very 
different book from the rest of the Bi- 
ble. Its theme is not doctrine but inner 
feeling — that most exciting and uplift- 
ing of all emotions, the emotion of 
love. Love is that which knits two souls 
together into a larger unity, an organic 
partnership that responds to and re- 
flects the love of God for His children 
and the love of Christ for His chosen 
bride, the church. The importance of 
Canticles is that it is a book about love, 
especially love between husband and 
wife as a paradigm of the love between 
the Savior and His redeemed people. 

Many times this sacred, typical 
character of marriage is referred to in 
Scripture. In Isaiah 54:4-6 the Lord 
addresses His sinful, straying, chas- 
tened people Israel in terms of an ag- 
grieved but graciously forgiving hus- 
band: “Fear not for you will not be put 
to shame. . . and the reproach of your 
widowhood [i.e., the period of aliena- 
tion from Yahweh during the Babylon- 
ian exile] you will remember no more. 
For your husband is your Maker, whose 
name is Yahweh of hosts; and your 

Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel 

For Yahweh has called you, like a wife 
forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like 
a wife of one’s youth when she is re- 
jected.” 


In other words, the deep, emotional 
commitment of a good husband to- 
ward the wife he adores bears a typical 
relationship (albeit a faint and finite 
one) to the inexhaustible and eternal 
love that God has toward His re- 
deemed (cf. Eph. 3:18-19). This is 
spelled out most fully in the classic pas- 
sage from Ephesians 5:21-27 (niv): 
“Submit to one another out of rev- 
erence for Christ. Wives, submit to 
your husbands as to the Lord. For the 
husband is the head of the wife as 
Christ is head of the church, his body, 
of which he is the Savior. . . .Husbands, 
love your wives, just as Christ loved the 
church and gave himself up for her to 
make her holy, cleansing her by the 
washing with water through the word, 
and to present her to himself as a radi- 
ant church without stain or wrinkle or 
any other blemish, but holy and blame- 
less” (niv). 

From this perspective, then, we turn 
to the Song of Solomon and its lyr- 
ic, emotional imagery, which is con- 
structed like some mood-creating sym- 
phony, written by a musical genius 
and performed by a magnificent or- 
chestra. It is a heart-stirring account of 
Solomon’s romance with a humble but 
surpassingly beautiful girl from the 
country, perhaps from Shunem up in 
the territory of Issachar (the Septua- 
gint renders “Shulamite” in 6:13 as 
Sounamitis, “Shunemite”). It may be 
that Solomon originally wooed her in 
the garb of a shepherd and thus came 


261 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


to know her as she was tending her 
sheep in an adjacent field. 

It is quite possible that in the earlier 
part of his reign, at least, Solomon took 
time off from his official duties to 
enjoy a vacation in the country (appar- 
ently in an estate at Baal-hamon — 
8:11). His preference was for the tend- 
ing of sheep, vines, and flowers, rather 
than golfing, fishing, boating, or tennis 
(such as our modern executives enjoy). 

So he spent a few weeks away from 
Jerusalem incognito. (Some scholars 
prefer to introduce some local swain 
who was a shepherd by profession and 
who became a successful rival to the 
king for the girl's affections; but this is 
very hard to sustain from the wording 
of the text itself, and it is most unlikely 
that Solomon, the apparent author of 
this production, would have written up 
this episode as a monument to his own 
defeat in love.) 

As he picked up an acquaintance 
with this charming young shepherdess, 
Solomon found himself unexpectedly 
falling in love; and she apparently be- 
came deeply enamored of him before 
she discovered his true identity. As he 
secured her hand in marriage, he took 
her off with him to Jerusalem and the 
splendors of his court. There she was 
faced with the sixty wives and eighty 
concubines who already made up his 
harem, and in these palace surround- 
ings she felt abashed at the unfashion- 
able deep tan she had picked up from 
her outdoor life, to which she had been 
compelled by her own brothers (1:6). 

The memoir Solomon wrote of this 
deeply meaningful episode in his life, 
in which he experienced the most au- 
thentic relationship of love he was ever 
to know, has been recorded for us in 
an amazingly beautiful way by this con- 
summately gifted poet. Although 
through his foolish self-indulgence this 
misguided polygamist failed to live up 
to the exalted insights to which this 
lovely girl had brought him, he gave 
us an unsurpassable expression to the 
glory of a love that reflects the incom- 

262 


parable love of God. “Many waters can- 
not quench love; rivers cannot wash it 
away. If one were to give all the wealth 
of his house for love, it would be utterly 
scorned” (8:7, niv). 

The poet has not followed a strict 
logical or chronological order in the 
way he has brought his material to- 
gether; rather, there is an emotion- 
al stream-of-consciousness technique 
throughout these eight chapters. This 
greatly resembles the recurrent 
flashback technique followed by cer- 
tain television shows of our own day. 
But if the basic guidelines and presup- 
positions we have suggested above are 
borne in mind, the various compo- 
nents come together in a coherent and 
convincing way. Try it again, dear 
reader, maybe you will like it! And 
please bear in mind, as you go through 
passages like 4:1-5 and 7:1-9, that a 
beautiful woman who loves the Lord is 
God’s supreme masterpiece of artistry; 
and external though that beauty may 
be, it serves as a fitting symbol of the 
spiritual loveliness of the temple of the 
Lord to which the body of every true 
believer has been transformed as a 
habitation of the Holy Spirit of God. 
The woman’s viewpoint finds expres- 
sion equally eloquent in 2:3-6 and 
5:10-16 — although a male reader may 
not find himself emotionally attuned 
to respond to those passages as well as 
a woman can. 

The Song of Solomon serves as a 
reminder to all believers that God re- 
joices in His handiwork and knows 
how to invest it with thrilling beauty 
that deserves a full and proper ap- 
preciation. Yet along with this warm 
response to all that God has made 
beautiful — whether landscape, sky, 
sea, the magnificent trees, gorgeous 
flowers, or the transient charms of 
human loveliness, we must never 
forget to give all the glory and worship 
to the One who fashioned them so. We 
must always remember to exalt the 
Creator above all His creation and 
above all His creatures. 




Isaiah 


What solid evidence is there for the unity 
of Isaiah ? 

Isaiah 6:11-13 records a revelation 
made by God to Isaiah at the begin- 
ning of his prophetic ministry (ca. 739 
b.c.). After he heard God’s call and 
had been commissioned to preach to a 
people who would only harden their 
hearts against the truth, he asked the 
Lord with troubled heart, “Lord, how 
long?” Then Yahweh answered him, 
“Until cities are devastated and with- 
out inhabitant, houses are without 
people, and the land is utterly desolate, 
the Lord has removed men far away, 
and the forsaken places are many in 
the midst of the land” (nasb). Here we 
have a clear prediction of the total dev- 
astation and depopulation of Judah 
meted out by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 
b.c., over 150 years later! This is of 
extreme importance as evidence, since 
all scholars of every viewpoint admit 
that Isaiah 6 is an authentic work of 
the eighth-century Isaiah. 

Continuing on in v.13, we read of 
the return of a remnant of the exiles 
back to the land of Israel, to found a 
new commonwealth from which “a 
holy seed” (zera‘ qddes ) will arise. Liter- 
ally translated, v.13 says, “But [there 
will] still be a tenth-part in it [i.e., the 
exiled people], and it will return 
[w e sabah] and it will be for burning [i.e., 
subjected to fiery trials], like a terebinth 
or like an oak, which in [their] felling 
[still have] a root-stump in them, a holy 
seed [shall be] its root-stump.” In other 


words, although the parent tree was 
hewn down by the Chaldean conquest 
and deportation in 587, yet from 
around the base of the stump a new 
sucker would spring up that would 
some day grow into a strong and 
vigorous tree. That is to say, the Fall of 
Jerusalem and the destruction of Sol- 
omon’s temple would not really mean 
the end for God’s people. After their 
exile, they would return and establish a 
new state for God and prepare the way 
for the Holy Seed. 

Crucial to this interpretation is the 
translation of vf sabah, which is often 
construed to have mere adverbial 
force, tantamount to “again” (i.e., “and 
it will again be subject to burning”). 
But in this case we have proof positive 
that Isaiah himself did not so interpret 
it. On the contrary, he must have un- 
derstood it as meaning “It shall return” 
(from the verb sub, “to return”). We 
know this because of the name he gave 
to his firstborn son, Shear-jashub, 
mentioned just three verses later. That 
name means “a remnant will return,” 
as all scholars admit. Where did Isaiah 
learn about an exile from which the 
future people of Israel would return? 
From 6:13! The same verb sub is used 
both in 6: 13 and in 7:3. This leaves no 
ground for doubt, then, that back in 
739 b.c. Isaiah the prophet knew by 
revelation what was going to happen in 
587 b.c., when Jerusalem fell, and also 
what would happen in 537 b.c., when 
the exiles would return from Babylon 
to the Holy Land by permission of 


263 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


King Cyrus of Persia — an event that 
was not to occur until more than two 
hundred years later. 

Isaiah 6:13 therefore destroys the 
basic premise of the entire Deutero- 
Isaiah theory, which assumes that it 
would be impossible for an eighth- 
century Hebrew prophet to foretell or 
even foreknow the events of 587 and 
and 539-537 b.c. (the Fall of Babylon 
and the return of the first settlers to 
Jerusalem). It was on this premise that 
J.C. Doederlein (1745-92) built his en- 
tire argument and based his case for 
some unknown author living quite near 
to 539 b.c., who began his prophetic 
composition with chapter 40 (with its 
awareness that the Babylonian exile 
has taken place and that there is now a 
prospect of their return to Palestine) 
and ending with chapter 66. 

In other words, Doederlein assumed 
that no genuine predictive prophecy 
was possible, and that no eighth- 
century prophet could have seen that 
far into the future. His theory was built 
on antisupernatural presuppositions, 
and so also were the elaborations of 
this theory by J.G. Eichhorn (ca. 
1790), H.F.W. Gesenius (ca. 1825), 
E.F.K. Rosenmueller (ca. 1830), and 
Bernhard Duhm (ca. 1890) — who 
opted for three Isaiahs instead of just 
two. Every one of them assumed the 
impossibility of genuine prophecy by a 
personal God; therefore every appar- 
ent evidence of it had to be explained 
away as “prophecy after the fulfill- 
ment” ( vaticinium ex eventu). But Isaiah 
6:13 cannot be explained away as pre- 
diction concocted after the event since 
its time of composition was unques- 
tionably in the 730s b.c. 

Second, the internal evidence of 
Isaiah 40-66 speaks decisively against 
the possibility of post-exilic composi- 
tion. Many of the same evils deplored 
and denounced by Isaiah 1 and 5 are 
still prevalent in “Deutero-Isaiah.” 
Compare Isaiah 1:15: “Yea, when you 
make many prayers, I will not hear 


[you]; your hands are full of blood” 
and 59:3,7: “For your hands are de- 
filed with blood, and your fingers with 
iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, 
your tongue has muttered perverse- 
ness. . . .Their feet run to evil, and they 
make haste to shed innocent blood.” 
Compare also Isaiah 10:1-2 with 
Isaiah 59:4-9. 

Moreover, there is a revolting 
hypocrisy that corrupts the religious 
life of the nation. Compare 29:13: 
“Forasmuch as this people draw near 
me with their mouth, and with their 
lips do honour me, but have removed 
their heart far from me, and their fear 
toward me is taught by the precept of 
men” and Isaiah 58:2,4: “Yet they seek 
me daily, and delight to know my ways, 
as a nation that did righteousness, and 
forsook not the ordinance of their 
God; they ask of me the ordinances of 
justice; they take delight in approach- 
ing to God. . . . Behold, ye fast for 
strife and debate, and to smite with the 
fist of wickedness.” 

Third, idolatry is set forth in Isaiah 
40-66 as a current vice in Israel. The 
prophet addresses his countrymen as 
flagrant idol worshipers in 57:4-5: 
“Against whom do ye sport your- 
selves? . . . Enflaming yourselves with 
idols under every green tree, slaying 
the children in the valleys under the 
clifts of the rocks?” Compare with this 
Isaiah 1 :29: “They shall be ashamed of 
the oaks which ye have desired” (oak 
groves being the setting for ritual pros- 
titution and excesses connected with 
Baal worship). The reference to infant 
sacrifice suggests the conditions pre- 
vailing during the reign of Manasseh 
(697-642 b.c.), who made a practice of 
sacrificing babies to Moloch and Ad- 
rammelech in the Valley of Hinnom 
(2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6). Isaiah 
57:7 makes a clear allusion to sacrifice 
on the “high places,” which was prac- 
ticed in Judah during the time of Ahaz 
(743-728 b.c.) and Manasseh. Again, 
in Isaiah 65:2^1 we read: “‘I have 


264 


ISAIAH 


spread out my hands all the day to a 

rebellious people a people that 

provoke me to my face continually, 
sacrificing in gardens and burning in- 
cense upon bricks; that sit among the 
graves and lodge in the secret places; 
that eat swine’s flesh; the abomination, 
and the mouse. They shall come to an 
end, all of them,’ says Yahweh.” 

These references to the practice of 
idolatry by the Israelites demonstrate 
conclusively that the author is writing 
in a historical setting prior to the 
Babylonian exile. This is so for two 
reasons. 

First, the mountainous terrain, the 
high and lofty hills, are not to be found 
in Babylonia at all; for there is nothing 
but a broad, flat, alluvial plain. More- 
over, the trees that are mentioned as 
possibilities for making wooden images 
out of and then using the scrap for the 
stove or fireplace — the cedar, the cy- 
press, and the oak (41:19; 44:14) — are 
all unknown to Babylonia. Therefore, 
if we have any respect at all to the 
internal evidence of the text itself, we 
have to conclude (Doederlein to the 
contrary notwithstanding) that Isaiah 
40-66 could never have been com- 
posed in Babylonia. 

Second, the references to idol wor- 
ship exclude the possibility (advocated 
by Duhm and many of the later 
scholars) that Isaiah 40-66 was really 
composed after the Fall of Jerusalem, 
up in Lebanon, and partly back in 
Judah, after the Fall of Babylon. The 
reason that this possibility is excluded 
is that only the earnest, pious men of 
religious conviction were involved in 
the resettlement of Jerusalem and 
Judah after Cyrus gave permission for 
the Jewish exiles to return to their 
homeland. Only a mere 10 percent of 
them responded to the invitation (about 
fifty thousand in all), and their ex- 
pressed purpose was to reestablish a 
commonwealth dedicated to the wor- 
ship and service of Yahweh as the one 
true God. 


We have positive control evidence 
that no idolatry was practiced in post- 
Exilic Judah within the sixth and fifth 
centuries bc. That evidence comes 
from the writings of Haggai, Zech- 
ariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi. 
In the prophecies and historical rec- 
ords of these five post-Exilic authors, 
we meet with a good deal of denuncia- 
tion of sins that were prevalent among 
their countrymen at that time; but 
there is never a mention of idolatry in 
Israel. There was intermarriage with 
foreign women of idolatrous back- 
ground, there was oppression of the 
poor by the rich, there was desecration 
of the Sabbath, there was a withhold- 
ing of tithes, and there was the presen- 
tation of diseased or defective animals 
on the altar to God. But there was 
never a mention of idolatry — which 
had been emphasized by the pre-Exilic 
prophets as the cardinal sin of the na- 
tion, the very particular sin for which 
God would bring down on them the 
weight of His wrath and the total de- 
struction of their country. There is no 
other logical deduction to draw from 
the evidence of the text of Isaiah 40-66 
but that it demands a pre-Exilic setting, 
which absolutely destroys the Deutero- 
Isaiah and the Trito-Isaiah theories. 
Such antisupernatural hypotheses can 
be maintained only in the teeth of the 
objective evidence of the Hebrew text, 
on which they were allegedly founded. 

The final consideration we adduce 
at this point is the attitude of Christ 
and the New Testament authors to- 
ward the authorship of the Book of 
Isaiah. Consider the following: (1) 
Matthew 12:17-18 quotes Isaiah 42:1 
as “that which was spoken by Isaiah the 
prophet.” (2) Matthew 3:3 quotes 
Isaiah 40:3 as “spoken by the prophet 
Isaiah.” (3) Luke 3:4 quotes Isaiah 
40:3-5 as “in the book of the words of 
Isaiah the prophet.” (4) Acts 8:28 re- 
ports that the Ethiopian eunuch was 
“reading Isaiah the prophet,” specifi- 
cally Isaiah 53:7-8. He then inquired 


265 


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES 


of Philip, “Of whom is the prophet 
speaking, of himself or of some other 
man?” (5) Romans 10:20 quotes Isaiah 
65:1, stating, "Isaiah is very bold and 
says. . . (6) In John 1 2:38—4 1 we find 
two quotations from Isaiah: Isaiah 
53:1 (in v.38) and Isaiah 6:9-10 (in 
v.40). Then in v.41 John affirms con- 
cerning these two verses, one from 
Isaiah “I” and the other from Isaiah 
“II”: “These things Isaiah said when 
he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” 
This surely implies that the inspired 
apostle believed that both Isaiah 6 and 
Isaiah 53 were written by the same 
Isaiah. 

In view of this decisive New Testa- 
ment testimony, it is hard to see how 
those who claim to be Evangelical can 
espouse the Deutero-Isaiah theory, or 
even regard it as a legitimate option 
for Evangelicals to hold. Or are there 
really Evangelicals who can embrace 
antisupernatural theories that com- 
pletely deny the possibility of predic- 
tive prophecy and still call themselves 
Evangelical? It is questionable whether 
they can do so with integrity! 

How can Isaiah 7:14 be considered a 
prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ? 
Isaiah 7:16 seems to preclude this en- 
tirely, and Isaiah 8:3 seems to fulfill the 
prophecy. (D*) 

In a time of great national crisis, the 
kingdom of Judah was threatened with 
conquest by the northern alliance of 
apostate Samaria and pagan Damascus 
(Isa. 7:4-6). Had they succeeded, 
Judah would have become a mere 
satellite to Samaria and later would 
have been destroyed as a nation by the 
Assyrian invaders (who destroyed 
Samaria itself within fifteen years of 
this time). 

Since Judah was governed by a 
wicked and ungodly king named Ahaz, 
its position as the one Bible-believing 
nation on the face of the earth was 
gravely imperiled. Therefore its great- 


est need was for a deliverer who would 
rescue it from sin and exalt it to a posi- 
tion of great spiritual force, witnessing 
to the rest of mankind about the way of 
salvation. In these prophecies concern- 
ing Immanuel, the Lord met Judah’s 
needs. 

Isaiah 7:14 promises that “the Lord 
himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a 
virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, 
and shall call his name Immanuel [i.e., 
‘God with us’].” Who is this sign to be? 
In what sense will he be “God with us”? 
From the references that follow, it is 
quite apparent that there is to be a type 
of Immanuel who will be born in the 
near future as proof that God is with 
His people to deliver them. 

Yet also an antitype will be born in 
the more remote future who will be 
both God and man, and He will deliver 
His people not only from human op- 
pressors but also from sin and guilt. 
Furthermore, He will reign as David’s 
descendant and successor forever and 
ever. Thus the twofold need will be 
met both by the typical Immanuel and 
by the antitypical divine Redeemer. 

Isaiah 7:16 clearly refers to a child 
who is to be born within a very few 
years: “For before the boy will know 
enough to refuse evil and choose good 
[i.e., before he reaches the age of full 
moral responsibility], the land whose 
two kings you dread [i.e., Pekah of 
Samaria and Rezin of Damascus] will 
be forsaken” (nasb). Normally at the 
age of twelve or thirteen, the Jewish 
lad was considered old enough to as- 
sume full responsibility for his own 
sins; then he would learn to read and 
expound the Pentateuch as a bar- 
mitsvah (a “son of the command- 
ment”). 

Now if this promise was given in 735 
B.c., and if the time-indicator child was 
born within a year or so thereafter, 
then he would have been twelve by 722 
b.c., when Samaria fell to the Assyrian 
besiegers and was permanently de- 
stroyed as a nation. Damascus had al- 


266 


ISAIAH 


ready been stormed and pillaged by 
the troops of Tiglath-pileser III in 732. 
This earlier date was also predicted, 
for in Isaiah 8:4 we read of the son 
who is to be born to Isaiah by the 
prophetess: “Before the boy knows 
how to cry out ‘my father’ or ‘my 
mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and 
the spoils of Samaria will be carried 
away before the king of Assyria” 
(nasb). 

By 732 the boy who served as the 
type of Immanuel would be two years 
of age, and therefore old enough to 
say “Daddy” and “Mommy.” Quite 
clearly this little son of the prophet 
who bore the God-given name of 
Maher-shalal-hash-baz (see Isa. 8:3) 
was to be the time-indicator for the ful- 
fillment of this prediction of Judah’s 
deliverance from the current crisis. 

At the time Isaiah 7:14 was given, 
the “prophetess” mentioned in 8:3 
would have been a virgin and would 
have been known to King Ahaz and his 
court as the woman to whom Isaiah 
(presumably a widower by this time, 
having lost through death the mother 
of Shear-jashub mentioned in 7:3) was 
engaged. Before they married, the 
Lord revealed to Isaiah that the first 
child he would have by this godly 
young woman would be a boy: and the 
Lord told him what name to call him: 
“Hasten to the booty, the spoil is run- 
ni